Mubarak To Be Tried For Protesters' Deaths
MARY LOUISE KELLY, host:
In Egypt, former President Hosni Mubarak will be put on trial. He's charged with conspiring to kill protestors who took to the streets against him earlier this year. If convicted, Mubarak could be sentenced to death. A trial for Mubarak was a key demand of protest leaders. They were threatening to take to the streets again out of frustration with the inaction of the country's current military rulers. NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson reports from Cairo.
Mr. MASOUD ALI MASOUD: (Foreign language spoken)
SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON: Masoud Ali Masoud is one of many Cairenes who approve of the decision to try Mubarak. The 55-year-old shopkeeper in the southern suburb of Maadi explains that no one is above the law.
At a bar in downtown Cairo, Adam Mamdoua shared that view.
Mr. ADAM MAMDOUA: Of course I'm happy. The Egyptian people, most of the Egyptian people, are happy. He's a criminal, and he must pay for what he did.
SARHADDI NELSON: Mamdoua adds he won't be sorry if Mubarak, who is 83, receives a death sentence.
Such vitriol is widespread for the man who was their president for three decades. The breaking point for many Egyptians came when his government sent security forces to violently quash the demonstrations against him earlier this year. An official Egyptian investigation concluded more than 800 people were killed in the 18-day uprising, many at point blank range.
Mr. KHALED FAHMY (American University, Cairo): You just don't shoot at your people. That's just not done. And that for that principle to be posed in this way is a huge victory for the revolution.
SARHADDI NELSON: That's Khaled Fahmy, who chairs the history department at the American University in Cairo. He says Mubarak no longer gets a free pass from people who used to blame his inner circle rather than the former president for their country's problems.
Mr. FAHMY: Increasingly people are saying to Mubarak, effectively, no, that argument just doesn't work. I mean, he must have known he is responsible because the charge is that he actually did order his minister of interior to use all means to quell the uprising.
SARHADDI NELSON: Mubarak transferred power to a military council on February 11, which promised to guide Egypt to democratic and civilian rule. But the new rulers were reluctant to prosecute Mubarak. They called it an unnecessary humiliation. They eventually allowed investigators to place Mubarak and his two sons in custody in mid-April. But the investigation dragged on week after week.
Then on Tuesday, Mubarak was charged with conspiring with his security chief and others already on trial to commit premeditated murder. He and his sons were also charged with abusing their power to enrich themselves and others.
Yasmine Fathi works for the Egyptian news organization Ahram Online.
Ms. YASMINE FATHI (Ahram Online): You know, the country's going through a very unstable period and the people seem to be very adamant. It's like there's no peace without justice. So I think it's very good news.
SARHADDI NELSON: But she adds people's joy is tempered by suspicions about the timing of the charges, only a few days before a planned mass protest against Egypt's military rulers.
Ms. FATHI: Like every time there is a Friday demonstration, you hear news on, like, Tuesday or Wednesday of the week before of an arrest or whatever the protestors have been calling for. So it's quite a pageant that's been going on for a while.
Ms. AMAL MOHAMED EL ABD: (Foreign language spoken)
SARHADDI NELSON: In Maadi, housewife Amal Mohamed El Abd is convinced the charges are a ploy to scuttle the demonstration. She says she doubts Mubarak will ever stand trial.
Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, NPR News, Cairo.
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