CAIRO: The chief prosecutor delivered the harshest assessment of Hosni Mubarak’s rule ever heard in an Egyptian courtroom Tuesday, accusing the ousted leader of tyranny and corruption and saying he devoted the last 10 years of his three decades in power to ensuring his son would succeed him.
The speech by Mustafa Suleiman seemed aimed at energizing the landmark trial of Mubarak, his two sons and eight other defendants after five months of sessions that were often bogged down by lengthy delays, muddled testimonies and complicated procedural issues.
Many have worried that the generals who took power after Mubarak — and who owed their positions to him — have no interest in convicting him, and Suleiman’s unusually broad denunciations of the former leader may have aimed at allaying such fears.
"He deserves to end in humiliation and indignity: From the presidential palace to the defendants’ cage and then the harshest penalty," said Suleiman, whose hour-long comments mesmerized the courtroom, set up at a police academy that once bore the former leader’s name.
Some lawyers, representing the defendants and the victims, weren’t impressed.
The performance of the prosecution while arguing its case on Tuesday was unexpectedly weak and bizarre, Mohamed Mahmoud, one of the plaintiff’s lawyers told Daily News Egypt.
"The prosecution argued the case in less than one hour” before the judge agreed to a request for a recess, said Mahmoud, a lawyer with the Arabic Network of Human Rights Information (ANHRI).
"The court [seems] to have realized that the prosecution was not ready," he added.
This was the first of three sessions during which the prosecution will argue its case. The trial was adjourned to Wednesday.
Mubarak, ex-interior minister Habib El-Adly and six of his aides, are accused of ordering the killing of protesters during the January 2011 uprising. The ousted president, his two sons, Alaa and Gamal, and his businessman friend Hussein Salem are also facing corruption charges.
According to Mahmoud, the prosecutor narrated incidents and general information known to everyone and did not face the defendants with any charges.
"I won’t comment on the prosecution’s performance until they talk law," lawyer Essam El-Batawy, representing El-Adly, told DNE.
"The session was nothing but a tirade [the first attorney general] made about the flaws of Mubarak…and the corruption of Mubarak and how El-Adly was protecting him and his family mentioning nothing about the state of security and economic growth the country was enjoying during [their tenure]," he added.
Suleiman said the corruption of Mubarak’s regime peaked in November and December 2010, when authorities engineered what is widely seen as the most fraudulent parliamentary election seen in Egypt since the army seized power in a 1952 coup. Mubarak’s ruling party won all but a handful of seats in the vote in what Suleiman said was part of a strategy to ensure Gamal’s succession.
"Here we have a president who devoted the last decade of his rule to engineer something that no one in Egypt ever dared to do before — the succession of his son," said the prosecutor, addressing presiding Judge Ahmed Rifaat with his back to the courtroom cage where Mubarak and the other defendants were held.
The prosecution decided to argue the cases of corruption and profiteering on the one hand and killing and injuring peaceful protesters on the other in separate sessions.
Mubarak, El-Adly and his aides are facing charges of killing 225 peaceful protesters and injuring 1,368 others during the first days of the uprising that toppled the regime back in January-February 2011. An official fact finding mission had said 846 were killed and thousands injured.
"Mubarak is being prosecuted for the cases that the prosecution had already investigated … basically of the protesters killed and wounded in public squares,” Mahmoud explained. “The others were shot dead or injured around police stations."
Suleiman branded Mubarak a corrupt man whose lust for power will forever tarnish his legacy. He spoke of him as a president whose fate handed him a job he did not try to get — he was vice president when his predecessor Anwar Sadat was assassinated in a 1981 military parade. "But he refused to willingly relinquish power in response to the will of his own people, so it was forcefully taken from him."
He said Mubarak put his own interests ahead of the nation’s and allowed his family and a coterie of aides to dictate policy to him during the last 10 of his 29-year rule. He did not learn from what happened to his predecessor, said Suleiman. Mubarak was seated next to Sadat when he was gunned down.
Suleiman singled out Mubarak’s wife, Suzanne, for being one of the main advocates of Gamal Mubarak to be president.
"His wife wanted to be the mother of the next president after she has been the president’s wife," he said. "They did not realize that Egypt was not a fiefdom."
Suzanne Mubarak was briefly arrested last year for corruption, but her brief time in detention was spent in a hospital. She was freed after she paid back state funds she was accused of embezzling, according to an official account.
As has been the case since the start of the trial five months ago, the 83-year-old Mubarak came to court Tuesday on a hospital gurney. His two sons wore white prison uniforms. All three listened intently while Suleiman spoke but said nothing. The judge adjourned the hearing until Wednesday.
On Monday, lawyers representing the civil rights complainants (the victims’ families) renewed their request to summon the Military Chief of Staff Sami Anan to testify in court.
Other requests included the admission of video footage by news channels Al Jazeera, Al Arabiya, Al Hurra and ONTV as evidence; summoning doctors who manned the field hospitals during the uprising to give their testimony; and remanding El-Adly’s aides General Osama Marrassi and General Omar El-Faramawy in custody.
The Mubarak trial, said Suleiman, "ushers the end of a long era of tyrannical rule, a time when the ruler took himself to be a substitute for the people and to be above the law. Our case takes the nation and the entire region to new horizons where the ruler metamorphoses from a tyrannical and brutal pharaoh to a mere human, and what applies to the people applies to him."
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–Additional reporting by Marwa Al-A’sar for Daily News Egypt.
Former Egyptian interior minister Habib al-Adly arrives for the continuation of his trial alongside ousted president Hosni Mubarak in Cairo on January 3, 2012. Egyptian prosecutors portrayed Mubarak as a "tyrannical leader", as they made their opening arguments in his murder trial. (AFP PHOTO/STR)