Egypt’s trial by fire

Egypt’s trial by fire

It was supposed to be Egypt's trial of the century -- the case that delivered justice for the Mubarak regime's longtime corruption and its lethal crackdown on protesters last year. Instead, like so much in Egypt's shaky transition to democracy, it ended in ambiguity, anger, and widespread accusations that the verdict was manipulated for political purposes.

An Egyptian court on Saturday delivered its ruling in cases against Hosni Mubarak, his sons Alaa and Gamal, Interior Minister Habib al-Adly, and Adly's top security aides. Egypt's protesters do have something to celebrate: Mubarak and Adly were sentenced to life in prison for failing to stop the killing of protesters during the uprising that toppled the Mubarak regime.  However, the court also found Adly's aides not guilty on charges of orchestrating the killings, and dismissed corruption charges against Mubarak's sons on technical grounds.

The conduct of the trial sent as many mixed signals as the verdict. The chief judge in the case, Ahmed Refaat, opened the hearing with a flowery condemnation of Mubarak's years in power, referring to them as "30 years of intense darkness, black black black, the blackness of a chilly winter night." With the toppling of the regime, he said, "a bright day loomed large for the great people of Egypt with the new hope they long yearned for."  

However, Refaat's poetic words did not dull the anger of Egypt's revolutionaries at the verdict that followed. Many saw the judgment as an attempt by the country's military rulers to limit the condemnation of the previous regime to a few bad apples -- Mubarak and Adly -- while preserving the system that sustained their power. Already, angry protesters have gathered in Tahrir Square to denounce the ruling -- and, in the words of photojournalist Mosaab Elshamy, it's "not too hard to predict what happens next."

Here is a roundup of some of the reactions that the verdict has sparked, from top officials and normal Egyptians alike:

"The ruling is full of legal flaws from every angle...We will win, one million percent." -Yasser Bahr, a senior member of Mubarak's defense team, when asked about his client's chances of reversing the conviction on appeal.

"[Mubarak] has to die just like my son did. We need execution. They will let him escape. There is no justice in this country." -Sanaa Saeed, the mother of Moez al-Sayed, who was shot and killed in Tahrir Square.

"Syrian President Assad says he'll step down on 1 condition: he is tried in an Egyptian court" -NBC News correspondent Ayman Mohyeldin, recounting a joke making the rounds in Cairo.

"Thank You #Misrata for making us avoid a farce similar to #MubarakTrial"  -@Libyanproud, a Libyan activist expressing his relief that Muammar al-Qaddafi was executed by militiamen hailing from the city of Misrata rather than put on trial.

"The acquittal of MOI officials confirms the neo-Mamluk, not Pharaonic, nature of regime: it's about protecting a caste, not its leader." -Journalist and FP contributor Issandr Amrani.

"The Mubarak trial proves that nobody is above accountability." -Ahmed Shafiq, Mubarak's last prime minister and one of two remaining candidates to succeed him in the run-off election scheduled to begin June 16.

"The ruling...was shocking for the families of the martyrs and the people of Egypt, and it once again raises the question: Who killed the martyrs, if the leaders of the police are innocent?" -Statement released by the Muslim Brotherhood condemning the verdict.

"Old regime puts itself on trial. Continued efforts to abort the revolution in cahoots with established political forces. A critical juncture." -Opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei.

"Young man downtown says Habib el Adly should be executed, but he's voting for Ahmed Shafiq." -Global Post senior correspondent Erin Cunningham.

"It is a first step forward. This is the best we could do. The next step will be stronger... You're living with killers, vampires. We're not as strong, but we'll keep trying until we get what we want." Samir Saadoun, whose son Ibrahim was killed during the protests against the Mubarak regime.