Though many had doubts, an ailing Hosni Mubarak, who served longer than any ruler of modern Egypt until he was overthrown in a revolution in February, was rolled into a courtroom in a hospital bed on Wednesday to face formal charges of corruption and complicity in the killing of
protesters. The televised trial was a seminal moment for Egypt and an Arab world roiled by revolt.
The sheer symbolism of the day, covered live by television and watched by millions, made it one of the most visceral episodes in the Arab world, where uprisings have shaken the rule of authoritarian leaders. In a region whose destiny was so long determined by rulers who deemed their people unfit to rule, one of those rulers was being tried by his public. On this day, the aura of power — uncontested and distant — was made mundane, and Mr. Mubarak, the former president, dressed in white and bearing a look some read as disdain, was humbled.
Mr. Mubarak, and six officers are charged in connection with killing protesters. The charges can carry the death penalty. Mr. Mubarak and his sons also face charges of corruption,allegedly receiving five villas to help a businessman buy state land at a cheaper price. After hearing the
charges against him, Mr. Mubarak stated, “I deny all these accusations completely,” wearily waving his hand.
More about this
The trial has transfixed a turbulent Arab world, where autocrats in Libya, Syria, Yemen and Bahrain have all been challenged by rebellion. Some Arab officials have said the very spectacle of the trial — a president and members of his family, along with his retinue of officials facing charges
— would make those leaders all the more reluctant to step down. On the very day Mr. Mubarak’s trial began, President Bashar al-Assad of Syria escalated his own crackdown on a city at the heart of the uprising against him.
However, there is still some optimism. “Today is a triumph over 30 years of tragedy,” says Fathi Farouk, a 50-year-old pharmacist who brought his family to watch the trial outside the academy. “We suffered for 30 years, and today is our a victory. It’s a victory for the Egyptian people.”
Photo credit: Getty Images