Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Former Egyptian President to Stand Trial

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Egypt’s deposed president, Hosni Mubarak (left), will be facing trial on charges of corruption and murder. The news is just one more plaguing issue for the former dictator, who has reportedly been suffering from health problems since he was stripped of his power months ago.

According to Egypt’s top prosecutor, Mubarak is responsible for the murder of unarmed protesters during Egypt’s notorious protests that ultimately resulted in the usurpation of Mubarak’s power. During the 18-day revolt, approximately 850 people died, many from police bullets.

Mubarak is now being charged with conspiracy “with premeditation” to kill allegedly peaceful protesters, and with the crime of “inciting some officers and members of the police to fire their weapons at the victims, shoot them and run over them with vehicles, and to kill some of them in order to terrorize the rest and force them to relinquish their demands.”

The New York Times reports:

In a statement, Egyptian prosecutor Mahmoud Abdel-Meguid said he would also charge Mr. Mubarak and his two sons, Gamal and Alaa, with corruption and self-dealing. The prosecutor also plans to file charges against a businessman close to the family, Hussein Salem. Among other ventures, Mr. Salem was part owner of a company involved in an Egyptian government deal to sell natural gas to Israel that is now under investigation.

Mubarak is being charged with corruption, as his seaside mansion in Sharm el Sheik was allegedly received as a kickback for a corrupt land deal that allowed Salem to purchase Egyptian land at an absurdly discounted price. Likewise, prosecutors are accusing Mubarak’s two sons, Gamal and Alaa, of having received four additional villas as part of the same corrupt deal.

Prosecutors contend that Salem was also permitted to siphon $714 million in public money to sell natural gas to Israel. The charge states that Salem was permitted to purchase natural gas from the Egyptian government at a substantially lower price, and then resold the gas to Israel at a substantial markup. While Egypt reportedly lost $714 million in the deal, Salam apparently made significantly more than that, having sold his stake for $2 billion.

The New York Times indicates that prosecutors have hinted at the possibility that former insubordinates and allies may be testifying against Mubarak.

The criminal trial can be set as early as June. If convicted, Mubarak could face the death penalty.

Meanwhile, some are concerned by the impact that such a trial could have on the stability of the Middle East, including the Saudi royal family, who has been urging the military rulers in Egypt to avoid harsh treatment. The NYT explains, “Some argue that watching Mr. Mubarak endure the humiliation of a criminal trial and potential conviction could harden the resolve of embattled leaders like Bashar al-Assad of Syria and Ali Abdullah Saleh of Yemen to hang on to power at any cost.”

Egyptian protesters are planning what they have dubbed “the second Egyptian Revolution” or “the Revolution Part II” to restate a long list of demands that they claim have not been met, including the prosecution of former President Mubarak. Likewise, demonstrators will be protesting against military trials and demanding the postponement of parliamentary elections to give each party more time to prepare.

Though Mubarak is being prepared for trial, the protesters indicate that it is not enough to prevent the second revolution.

“The military is trying to give us something to abort what is going to happen on Friday,” explains protest organizer Shedy el-Ghazaly Harb. “O.k., it is not a bad step, but not good enough to stop us from challenging them about how they are running the country.”

Former interior minister Habib el-Adly has already been sentenced to 12 years in prison for corruption and is currently awaiting trial for the charge of directing the murder of civilians. Adel el-Said, a spokesman for the prosecutor, contends, however, that el-Adly could not have ordered the killing of civilians without the consent of the president.

Mubarak has been recovering from a heart attack in a hospital near his home, but a medical team is currently examining him to determine if he is fit to stand trial. However, military officials are reporting that even if Mubarak is in poor health, they will likely move forward with the trial. In the past, suspects on life support have made been to stand trial, and it seems little exception will be made for the former Egyptian leader.

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