CAIRO: Lawyer defending ousted president Hosni Mubarak argued in court Tuesday that the prosecution only filed charges against the ousted president under the pressure of public opinion and criticized them for offending the defendant with libelous statements irrelevant to the case in question.
Lawyer Farid El-Deeb, who’s also representing former interior minister Habib El-Adly, argued that the prosecution had collected since February testimonials accusing both El-Adly and Mubarak but only referred the former to court in March.
“There is no case against Mubarak. It was filed on May 24, 2011, two whole months after the prosecution accused Habib El-Adly and referred him to court on charges of killing protesters,” El-Deeb said, calling for dismissing the murder case.
Even with a fact finding mission accusing both Mubarak and El-Adly in March of responsibility, the prosecution didn’t accuse the former president, “which proves that the prosecution from the start didn’t believe that there was a case against him,” the lawyer told the court in the first session allocated to the defense team.
Mubarak and El-Adly and six of his aides are facing charges of killing protesters. Mubarak, his two sons and businessman Hussein Salem are also facing corruption charges. Only the latter is tried in absentia.
In a seven-point argument, of which El-Deeb presented five quotes from an army generals and former top officials, the lawyer said that save for hearsay, the prosecution’s file doesn’t have proof of criminal complicity.
The lawyer implied in his opening statements that the prosecution’s description of Mubarak as a tyrant was in violation of the criminal procedural law and also irrelevant to the charges Mubarak was facing in this particular case, which is involvement in killing protesters during the uprising in January.
El-Deeb, who started his defense Tuesday with a 50-minute introduction listing Mubarak’s former achievements, said the prosecution was addressing public opinion. “It was all libel and slander,” he told the court.
"He deserves to end in humiliation and indignity: From the presidential palace to the defendants’ cage and then the harshest penalty," Attorney General Mostafa Suleiman told the court on Jan. 3. He described Mubarak as a tyrant as a team of prosecutors and civil society lawyers tried to prove the premeditated nature of the crime.
Calling for the death penalty, Suleiman said Mubarak was "politically and legally" responsible for the killing of the protesters and said that the former president did nothing to stop the killing of which he was aware from meetings with aides, regional TV channels and reports by his security agencies.
The presiding Judge, Ahmed Refaat, had started the hearing on Tuesday by assuring that the court won’t submit to any pressure, stressing the fairness of the trial. In contrast to the relative calm that marked the court hearings earlier this month, Tuesday’s was tense.
Volunteer lawyers in Mubarak’s defense team chanted for the ousted president, cheering El-Deeb on. Lawyers representing the victims and their families were riled up, with some standing on the benches and chanting back at the other team.
El-Deeb argued that the criminal intention was absent in this case. He cited the testimony of former vice president and intelligence chief Omar Suleiman who told the court last September that neither Mubarak nor El-Adly gave orders to use violence in dispersing protests.
He cited Suleiman’s and former interior minister Mahmoud Wagdy’s testimonials about forcing infiltrators in explaining the number of deaths.
While a fact finding mission said 846 were killed during the 18-day uprising, Mubarak is facing charges regarding the death of 225 – those who were killed in public squares not in front of police stations.
The lawyer also referenced Sulieman’s suggestion that the killings might have been the result of individual decisions made on the ground, or failure to obey orders.
El-Deeb described as “pure speculation” the prosecution’s argument of Mubarak’s criminal intent to kill protesters to protect his position as head of state. He recounted Mubarak’s speech on Feb. 1, during which he said he had no intention to stay in power for a single day after his term in office.
The lawyer used statements made by Major General Mokhtar El-Molla, member of the ruling military council, in which he said, “The armed forces didn’t force Mubarak to step down. In fact, Mubarak saved Egypt from a major crisis that would have emerged had he ordered the republican guard to confront protesters.”
“When Mubarak learnt about the protesters,” El-Deeb added, “He wanted to respond to their demand immediately all within the law. But he never attempted to crush the protests. On the contrary, he supported the protesters’ demands.” The lawyer cited Mubarak’s first speech on Jan. 28 as proof of taking protesters’ “legitimate demands” seriously.
The lawyer also argued against the prosecution’s accusation that Mubarak is complicit by failing to stop the killing despite his knowledge of it, or what the prosecution termed as passive responsibility. “According to legal theory, the failure to act doesn’t constitute complicity,” El-Deeb told the court.
In his morning introduction to the court, he said Mubarak served the country for 60 years, 30 in the military and 30 as Egypt’s president. “This was a long road full of success but also mistakes.”
Mubarak’s achievements included “single-handedly” retrieving Taba, on the border with Israel, through international arbitration and without a drop of blood, he said.
Under Mubarak’s rule, the lawyer continued, Egypt’s population went from 42 million to 82 million. “With his patience and wisdom he was able to deal with the internal challenges” in sectors like education and health care, he added.
Among the achievements the lawyer attributed to the ousted president was “his support to the independence of the judiciary.” El-Deeb referenced 2006, a year known for the biggest and bloodiest standoff between the judges and the regime, saying Mubarak enacted in this year a law giving the Supreme Judicial Council binding authority and an independent budget.
Judges had for the past few years complained of the backlash they suffered after standing up to the regime, especially after many had gone public with reports of elections fraud in 2005. Many judges who called for the independence of the judiciary in 2006, some of whom were dragged and beaten by security forces during street demonstrations, were later sidelined or punished.
El-Deeb also said Mubarak canceled the jail sentences in publishing offences.
While the law regulating publishing crimes remains to this day as is, the ousted president had given personal pardons to some of his dissidents after they received prison sentences for criticizing him in newspaper articles.
“For everything he’s done, Mubarak must be respected for all he has achieved. He’s not a tyrant. He reverences justice,” El-Deeb told the court. “He’s a man of pure heart. He was decorated with the highest medals. All this 83-year-old man asks for is justice.”
The lawyer is representing Mubarak and former interior minister El-Adly in the case of involvement in killing protesters. He is also representing Mubarak and his two sons, Gamal and Alaa, in a corruption case examined before the same court.
He tried to tear down the idea of an agreement between Mubarak and El-Adly saying for two parties to agree or conspire together they have to be of equal authority, which was not the case.
The hearing was adjourned to Wednesday.