Mubarak trial encapsulates divisions in Egypt

By Hamza Hendawi

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 17 2012 12:00 a.m. MST

At the same time, the generals have gone to great lengths to discredit protest leaders and capitalize on Egyptians' longing for stability by demonizing the revolutionaries as foreign agents and troublemakers while projecting an image of themselves as the nation's true patriots.

Activists, lawyers for the victims and some in the public see the soft treatment for the defendants as evidence that those in power still grant Mubarak and those around him the aura of prestige.

Police assigned to courthouse security have been captured on camera offering their former boss el-Adly a salute as he arrived for one of the early hearings. Those images caused an uproar, but el-Adly, who as interior minister commanded the intensely hated police force, continues to walk from the armored police vehicle that brings him from jail to the courtroom without escort or handcuffs. Dark sunglasses, a navy blue baseball cap and a matching prison uniform have become the iconic look of a man whose name once struck fear in the hearts of the regime's foes.

Similarly, Mubarak's sons parade boldly into the courthouse, with Alaa carrying a purple chair that he sits on when inside the defendants' cage. Both Alaa and Gamal, who barely a year ago was thought to be Egypt's second most powerful man after his father, wear immaculate white track suits with matching sneakers.

Two other security commanders face dereliction of duty charges in relation to the crackdown on protesters in the trial. A friend of the Mubarak family, Hussein Salem, who has fled the country, is also a defendant in the corruption component of the trial.

Activists grumble that the treatment contrasts with the use of deadly force by troops in recent months against peaceful protesters demanding that the generals step down immediately — as well as the use of cursory military tribunals to prosecute at least 12,000 civilians, including protesters, since the generals took over. Those rounded up over the months from Tahrir Square complained of being beaten, hit by clubs or shocked by stun guns while in police custody.

The prosecution last week gave a startlingly harsh and dramatic denunciation of Mubarak in its courtroom summations, calling him a tyrant who maneuvered to get his son Gamal to succeed him.

Tuesday's hearing was the first of five set aside by Judge Ahmed Rifaat to hear the defense argue its case. El-Deeb, who over the years built a reputation as a suave and expensive celebrity lawyer, sharply criticized the prosecution's comments, saying it used phrases that "for no reason insulted Mubarak."

"Mubarak is neither a tyrant nor a bloodthirsty man. He respects the judiciary and its decisions, a clean man who could say no wrong," he said.

"Mubarak has seriously and faithfully worked to the best of his abilities and energy for Egypt and its people, lived a life burdened by his nation's problems," he said. "For that, he is worthy of justice and no one should discredit his efforts, question his loyalty or history."

The victims' lawyers were again enraged when Salwah al-Soubi, a member of the defense team, chanted "Mubarak, we love you!" in addressing the ousted leader in the defendants' cage.

"Sit down and shut up!" shouted some of the lawyers for the victims.

Outside the trial venue, some 300 hundred Mubarak supporters chanted slogans in support of the former president. They came close to fighting with about 100 relatives of the victims, but riot police intervened and separated the two camps.

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