CAIRO: Moustafa Morsy arrived at the Cairo court room on Monday morning, hoping to get some justice for his 22-year-old son, shot dead during protests that ousted Egypt’s president Hosni Mubarak.
After sitting through hours of legal wrangling and chaotic arguments, Morsy left the court again fearing he might never see Mubarak and his allies answer for their role in the violence.
Morsy was one of a small handful of bereaved relatives who managed to squeeze into the trial of Mubarak, charged with authorizing the use of live ammunition to shoot protesters, of corruption and abuse of power.
"[The lawyers] are disorganized and because of this, we may lose everything," said Morsy, wearing a picture of his son tied on a string around his neck.
"Some of these lawyers are idiotic … Too many want to become overnight celebrities," he told Reuters.
Mubarak is the first head of state swept aside in the "Arab Spring" uprisings to stand trial in person. His first appearance in the court’s steel cage on Aug. 3, lying on a hospital bed, caused a sensation across the Middle East and captivated viewers beyond.
But that hearing, and his second appearance on Monday, were hardly an advertisement for justice in post-Mubarak Egypt.
More than a hundred lawyers defending relatives of those killed in the uprising argued bitterly over tiny points of procedure.
Lawyers for hundreds of plaintiffs struggled to agree on a common set of demands, prompting Judge Ahmed Refaat to call a halt to their speeches until he had a list of written legal arguments.
On one occasion, an argument almost came to physical blows after lawyers disagreed on whether Mubarak should be judged for his 30 years in power or his last 18 days.
Legal representatives at the hearing insisted they were doing their best.
"We are trying to coordinate across the country. This is a major case. There is a huge number of plaintiffs and we each have local details to worry about," said lawyer Khalef Bayoumy.
Nearby, a group of lawyers clustered together, trying to agree on a common strategy. "Who said you can speak on our behalf," one shouted. Another snapped back: "We need to get our act together sooner rather than later."
‘Please sit down’
As Mubarak was wheeled into the dock for the second session, his two sons, Gamal and Alaa, watched in bemusement as a court cleric shouted at lawyers to sit down:
"Please respected lawyers, sit down! This is not the civilized picture we want! The judges are standing outside."
Dozens of lawyers crowded around the podium for a chance to speak into the microphone.
"It’s going to take 10 years at this rate, just to listen to all these speeches," lawyer Islam Mandour joked. "Half of the things said can be expressed in writing or not at all."
The court’s patience was running thin.
"This is not something to be allowed or accepted. We are exerting effort beyond the ability of any court. It is beyond the capacity of any court to have more than 100 lawyers speaking," judge Refaat told the court room.
He then ordered the suspension of live broadcasting of the trial, to applause from the courtroom and shouts of "long live justice."
"There are a lot of egos inside the court. Lawyers are more concerned with their image and seeing themselves on television than working for a swift trial," said Mahmoud Khadrawy, a lawyer for the plaintiffs.
Some officials said the proceedings would calm down after the television cameras were removed.
The decision to pull the cameras angered the bereaved relatives, who said they now feared for the transparency of the trial. For thousands of other family members outside the court room, it robbed them of their own way of watching the proceedings.
"They aired the court session live to appease Egyptians. Now they are taking that from us. This is unfair," said 66-year-old Hassan Mohamed Abdel Fattah, who lost his nine-year old son to what he says was a sniper’s bullet.
Abdel Fattah carried a sweater marked with a bullet hole and a white T-shirt stained brown from his son’s dried blood.
"He didn’t even say ‘ouch’. He just dropped dead in front of my eyes. The bullet went from the back and out of his chest," the mechanic said. "I just want to see Mubarak hanged."
Back inside the court room, Morsy echoed the sentiment. Putting aside his doubts about the trial for a minute, he started chanting "You will be executed," pointing at Mubarak as the 83-year-old former leader was carried away.