FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Mubarak on Trial

by BINOY KAMPMARK

hether the trial of a once powerful leader in the Arab world signifies a good yield for the spring of revolution remains to be seen. But the appearance of Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak in the dock during Egyptian TV’s Ramadan special, lying on a stretcher in prison fatigues was not a sight to miss.  Spectators, despite initial stages of jeering, were stunned.  Egyptian stockbrokers were evidently keeping their eyes on the former leader, given the shedding of value on the stock exchange.

There was certainly much anticipation before hand.  The figures of how many military and security personnel would be required to secure the scene of the trial were debated: 8000 or 5000?  How many tanks would be required?  Where would it be held?  The Cairo Convention centre, or perhaps a police academy?  In the end, it was the latter that held sway.

Others are keeping company with the accused former leader.  His sons Alaa and Gamal Mubarak are accused of abusing power and amassing wealth. Former Interior Minister Habib al-Adly and six aides are being tried for conspiring to kill protesters while business tycoon Hussein Salem is the only one in absentia being tried for corruption.

Trying high ranking leaders for their crimes is never an easy task.  There still remains a school of thought amongst lawyers that putting a leader in the dock for high crimes renders statecraft problematic.  The personalised nature of charges obscures the complexity of how decisions are made.  But even more striking is how to satisfactorily make a figure account for colossal offences – the ones where thousands perish at the hands of a state policy – that were a product of a vast system. ‘Mubarak,’ as Tony Karon mentions in Time (Aug 3), ‘did not create this regime; the regime, based in Egypt’s armed forces since they overthrew the monarchy in 1952, created Mubarak, choosing the former Air Force chief to lead it in the crisis that followed the assassination of President Anwar Sadat in 1981.’

There was even doubt that Mubarak would ever come to trial.  The extensive financial involvement of Saudi Arabia in the Egyptian economy has its various caveats.  One, as reported in Albawaba.com (Apr 13), was keeping ‘Mubarak away from courtrooms and jails’.  The concern often voiced is that no Arab government will want to see the spectacle of a prominent leader in the dock, lest it stimulate further protests in the name of reform.  There were even conflicting reports about the freezing of Saudi Prince Bin Talal’s enormous land purchase in Upper Egypt, a purchase that would secure him one percent of Egypt’s total land.

The unsatisfactory nature of the trial is already becoming evident. Mubarak, for one, is only being tried for a brief stint of supposed criminality – the two days in January in which he was said to have given the order to fire on protesters.  Added to this brief are charges of corruption (a gas deal with Israel), an all too convenient charge to lodge from accusers who are themselves not averse to such behaviour.  Thirty years is an eternity in politics, and to have it shrunk so drastically into this shallow corridor of action is a glaring failing.

While the trial will enable a sense of catharsis to be achieved, the soberly critical will be wary about its long term implications.  It is hard to establish the virtues of a trial where the civic institutions to acknowledge the value of such proceedings do not exist.  The trial was itself a gift from the military junta, a gesture that pacifies an incensed population without yielding power to them.  Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris has told Bloomberg television (Aug 3) that the trial in itself is no complete panacea for the country’s chronic problems.

The words of Jordan’s former foreign minister capture the relevance of such matters as the Mubarak trial.  ‘One cannot expect this to be a linear process or to be done overnight,’ he explained to Thomas Friedman of the New York Times. ‘There were no real political parties, no civil society institutions ready to take over any of these countries [Yemen, Libya, Syria, Egypt and Tunisia].  I do not like to call this the “Arab Spring”.  I prefer to call it the “Arab Awakening”, and it is going to play out over the next 10 to 15 years before it settles down.’

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne.  Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

More articles by:
June 27, 2016
Robin Hahnel
Brexit: Establishment Freak Out
James Bradley
Omar’s Motive
Gregory Wilpert – Michael Hudson
How Western Military Interventions Shaped the Brexit Vote
Leonard Peltier
41 Years Since Jumping Bull (But 500 Years of Trauma)
Rev. William Alberts
Orlando: the Latest Victim of Radicalizing American Imperialism
Patrick Cockburn
Brexiteers Have Much in Common With Arab Spring Protesters
Franklin Lamb
How 100 Syrians, 200 Russians and 11 Dogs Out-Witted ISIS and Saved Palmyra
John Grant
Omar Mateen: The Answers are All Around Us
Dean Baker
In the Wake of Brexit Will the EU Finally Turn Away From Austerity?
Ralph Nader
The IRS and the Self-Minimization of Congressman Jason Chaffetz
Johan Galtung
Goodbye UK, Goodbye Great Britain: What Next?
Martha Pskowski
Detained in Dilley: Deportation and Asylum in Texas
Binoy Kampmark
Headaches of Empire: Brexit’s Effect on the United States
Dave Lindorff
Honest Election System Needed to Defeat Ruling Elite
Louisa Willcox
Delisting Grizzly Bears to Save the Endangered Species Act?
Jason Holland
The Tragedy of Nothing
Jeffrey St. Clair
Revolution Reconsidered: a Fragment (Guest Starring Bernard Sanders in the Role of Robespierre)
Weekend Edition
June 24, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
A Blow for Peace and Democracy: Why the British Said No to Europe
Pepe Escobar
Goodbye to All That: Why the UK Left the EU
Michael Hudson
Revolts of the Debtors: From Socrates to Ibn Khaldun
Andrew Levine
Summer Spectaculars: Prelude to a Tea Party?
Kshama Sawant
Beyond Bernie: Still Not With Her
Mike Whitney
¡Basta Ya, Brussels! British Voters Reject EU Corporate Slavestate
Tariq Ali
Panic in the House: Brexit as Revolt Against the Political Establishment
Paul Street
Miranda, Obama, and Hamilton: an Orwellian Ménage à Trois for the Neoliberal Age
Ellen Brown
The War on Weed is Winding Down, But Will Monsanto Emerge the Winner?
Gary Leupp
Why God Created the Two-Party System
Conn Hallinan
Brexit Vote: a Very British Affair (But Spain May Rock the Continent)
Ruth Fowler
England, My England
Jeffrey St. Clair
Lines Written on the Occasion of Bernie Sanders’ Announcement of His Intention to Vote for Hillary Clinton
Norman Pollack
Fissures in World Capitalism: the British Vote
Paul Bentley
Mercenary Logic: 12 Dead in Kabul
Binoy Kampmark
Parting Is Such Sweet Joy: Brexit Prevails!
Elliot Sperber
Show Me Your Papers: Supreme Court Legalizes Arbitrary Searches
Jan Oberg
The Brexit Shock: Now It’s All Up in the Air
Nauman Sadiq
Brexit: a Victory for Britain’s Working Class
Brian Cloughley
Murder by Drone: Killing Taxi Drivers in the Name of Freedom
Ramzy Baroud
How Israel Uses Water as a Weapon of War
Brad Evans – Henry Giroux
The Violence of Forgetting
Ben Debney
Homophobia and the Conservative Victim Complex
Margaret Kimberley
The Orlando Massacre and US Foreign Policy
David Rosen
Americans Work Too Long for Too Little
Murray Dobbin
Do We Really Want a War With Russia?
Kathy Kelly
What’s at Stake
Louis Yako
I Have Nothing “Newsworthy” to Report this Week
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail