Cairo, (AFP)- Hosni Mubarak’s murder and corruption trial, which opens on Wednesday, is generating a mixture of excitement and regret among the Egyptians who overthrew the veteran president.
Mubarak, 83, is charged with murder in connection to the deaths of more than 800 anti-regime protesters and corruption during his widely reviled three decades in rule.
“He’s like all men, he must be judged for his crimes,” said Hussein Sabra, a shoeshiner in Cairo’s middle-class neigbourhood of Dokki.
The trial of Mubarak and his two sons Alaa and Gamal is a source of friction between activists who demanded justice for his abuses and the military which took over after his resignation on February 11.
Hundreds of protesters held a sit-in starting on July 8 in Cairo’s Tahrir square to press the chief demand of a speedy trial for Mubarak which they believed the military council — whose generals Mubarak handpicked — would delay.
“He abused the power that people entrusted him with,” said Duaa Helmy, one of the protesters in the square.
Mubarak’s assets may have been frozen but his fortune remains unknown, despite mounting calls for disclosure.
“Where are the millions? We want our stolen money back,” she said. Many believe the money the Mubaraks allegedly spirited out of the country will come back only when he is found guilty.
But others believe the elderly and ailing former president has already suffered enough indignity, and that perhaps the country was better off under him.
Mubarak is under arrest in a hospital in the Red Sea resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh, where he is receiving treatment for a heart condition.
One of his doctors told AFP that he is weak after refusing food for days, because he was too depressed to eat. It is unlikely he will be present in the defendant’s cage on Wednesday in a Cairo suburb.
His lawyer Farid al-Deeb has said that Mubarak was diagnosed with cancer, and that he went into a coma last month, which the hospital treating him denies.
But critics suspect Deeb’s intention in leaking such news is to garner sympathy for the former strongman.
And it seems to be working at a time when ongoing economic troubles have made a sector of Egypt’s society already nostalgic about his era.
“Everything was better organised and there was no violence” then, said Mona Ahmed, a shopkeeper. “And with Mubarak, Egypt had known peace for three decades.”
For the ruling generals, putting on trial the man they were sworn to protect presents a dilemma.
They are keen to prove that they harbor no loyalties to the former regime, as their increasingly vocal critics allege.
Trying Mubarak would remove a source of tension with activists, who have pursued nationwide sit-ins and protests that has clearly worried the generals.
On the other hand, they also have to deal with the fact that Mubarak still has loyalists in the country, and powerful Arab allies in the Gulf who do not want to see a ruler who once had such influence in a defendant’s cage.