One year ago, if told that Hosni Mubarak, his sons and the feared Minister of Interior Habib al-Adly were to face charges of corruption, murder conspiracy against unarmed protestors, any Egyptian would have bitterly laughed. We would have believed seeing one day the Nile getting dry or the desert getting green rather than this trial. This morning, when the trial of the ex-dictator opened, I first had this feeling of something truly unreal happening.
I couldn’t believe my eyes – I was watching the trial through the Egyptian TV live stream - seeing this weak old man lying in his bed, a man that once held a whole nation under state of emergency for three decades, that stole the country’s wealth and traded so many lives with his personnal power and his clan’s. He was dressed in white, like his two sons Alaa and Gamal. A stupid thought crossed my mind at this moment: “Not in blue?“. I was taking it from all the Egyptian movies where defendants in trials were always wearing blue suits.
The court first went about technicalities for ages, the lawyers were all talking at the same time, the mess was complete.One of the lawyers even asked to the court to proceed to a DNA test on Hosni Mubarak to prove it is the real Hosni Mubarak and not a lookalike, his theory being that the ‘real’ Mubarak was dead since 2004 and the ‘false’ Mubarak being an agent of the American-Zionist conspiracy. At this point I really thought the trial was going to be nothing more than a big joke.
From time to time, the camera was framing this cage where seven men were held, including Hosni Mubarak in his bed and Alaa Mubarak holding a Quran behind his back. Somehow, as a human being I could a bit feel sorry for the humiliating situation: a cage where a sick man was lying. But this feeling was very soon muted by that other voice in me “reminding” me that after all, a man who has ordered mass killings of peaceful protestors, caused the poverty, the misery, the sad destiny of so many men and women I’ll never see on a TV screen, this kind of man, if not ashamed of his records, is certainly beyond feeling ashamed just for a cage or a bed.
The strongest moment of the trial was when the prosecutor read the charges against the defandants. He listed the facts, about the January 25th revolution protestors killings, but also about all the protestors killings since 2000, about the corruption of the regime, about the millions and billions of Egyptian Pounds, about the scandalous gas deal with Israel, about the legitim demands of the people wanting to live better, to live dignifully, met with guns, with torture. I found myself in tears hearing all our country went through because of this man, and I know many Egyptians like me were in tears too. But I was also in tears because I was proud: proud to be part of a country that at the end chose the right side. And thankful: thankful to God to have allowed me to live long enough to see this historical moment of a nation asking for justice. Thankful also to all the martyrs of the Revolution who gave their lives for this New Egypt to exist, this New Egypt where Egyptians say they don’t want anymore to be silent.
After the prosecutors intervention, Hosni Mubarak and his sons announced they were pleading non-guilty. Just hearing Mubarak saying to the president of the court “Efendim” (a honorific denomination in Arabic), was like a… delight. After all, he was now refering to the president of the court with the same denomination that any defendant or person present in the trial had: he was no more above all of us, he was no more above justice.
At the end of this first session of the Mubarak Trial I thought of course of the Arab Spring martyrs, let it be in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Bahrain, but also to the Iraqis and the Yougoslavians: I remembered the mascarade of a trial they had for Saddam Hussein and also the incredible slowness of Slobodan Milosevic trial that could never even really start before he died. All this waste: its maybe once or twice in History of a country a tyrant is put in front of his deeds and below the justice; for example, in Egypt, we had Pharaoh swallowen by the Red Sea and we have now Mubarak crushed by the will of a whole people asking for its dignity. These very rare occasions act like a massive psychanalysis for the populations. And this opportunity was stolen from Iraqis and from Serbs and Bosniacs. ‘Justice’ can help ‘History’ to take such a ridiculous turn sometimes.