Hosni Mubarak, on trial in Cairo for murder and fraud, may be a sacrificial lamb but he should have known what was going on during the revolution, experts say.
Hundreds of people were killed and thousands were injured during protests that eventually forced Mubarak from power after nearly three decades as Egypt’s president.
Mubarak appeared Wednesday, lying on a hospital gurney in a metal cage, in a Cairo court alongside his sons Alaa, Gamal and members of the former regime.
The 83-year-old former president has been convalescing in a military hospital in the resort city of Sharm el-Sheik since his resignation. He is reportedly suffering from severe depression and ill health.
Mubarak assumed power after the 1981 assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat. His vice president, Omar Suleiman, served as the temporary authority in Cairo last year after Mubarak recovered in Germany from gall bladder surgery.
MENA, the country’s state-run news agency, said Mubarak on Wednesday denied all charges against him. Suleiman had told Egyptian prosecutors earlier this year, however, that Mubarak knew of the events unfolding during the revolution.
Daniel Serwer, a professor at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, said in response to e-mail queries that the trail should make Mubarak’s role during the revolution clear.
“I really don’t know what Mubarak knew but I know he should have known,” Serwer said. “I suppose the trial may elucidate this question.”
Suleiman said during investigations early this year that Mubarak was receiving hourly reports from Interior Minister Habib el-Adly during the unrest in January and February.
Adly was sentenced to 12 years in prison after being found guilty of corruption and abuse of power in an earlier trial.
Sources close to the investigation had told Egyptian daily newspaper al-Masry al-Youm the Adly ordered associates to place snipers at key locations, including in his office, during the height of the unrest in January.
A government committee determined that police tied to the regime fired on protesters from the American University of Cairo and the Interior Ministry building.
Adly’s lawyers were quoted as saying that he issued orders based on false information from his deputies, meaning he wasn’t responsible for the decision to fire on protesters.
The Egyptian newspaper reported that Gamal Mubarak had told investigators that he advised his father to respect the will of the people and step aside, though Mubarak was said to fear that his resignation would result in chaos in Egypt.
The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, the military authority that took control after the revolution, has faced increased criticism from revolutionary backers, who’ve re-occupied Cairo’s central Tahrir Square, that justice was slow to develop in the country.
Rodger Baker, vice president of strategic intelligence at Texas’s intelligence company Stratfor, said in response to e-mail queries that while his company wasn’t necessarily looking at the specific details of the trail, the military may look to secure its position through Mubarak’s case.
“The military is sacrificing Mubarak et al. to preserve the system of control that they have in place” he said.
The court adjourned Mubarak’s case to Aug. 15.
DANIEL GRAEBER || UPI Correspondent