In Egypt, End Of Hosni Mubarak Trial Nears

The trial of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is due to end Wednesday. Mubarak is accused of ordering the killing of protesters during last year's Arab Spring uprising. The prosecution has demanded the death penalty, but a verdict is not expected for some weeks yet.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

This is supposed to be the last day of the nearly seven-month trial of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. His two sons, the former interior minister and several police officials are also on trial. Mubarak and the other security officials are being linked to the deaths of hundreds of protesters during last year's revolution. His sons are charged with corruption. The former president could be sentenced to death if convicted. NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson has been covering this trial.

Hi, Soraya.

SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: We mentioned that the trial is ending but there's supposed to be no verdict. Could that correct?

NELSON: That's true. The senior judge - the chief judge - will announce a date today for that verdict. But, for one thing, there's a lot of testimony that he needs to go through. I mean, this trial's been going on for nearly seven months.

The other problem, of course, is if the prosecution failed to make its case and Mubarak is not convicted, there is quite a backlash expected here. This would be something that Egyptians would not tolerate. And so I'm sure there's some consideration there about when they will announce this verdict.

INSKEEP: Well, in these months, how strong has the evidence been that has linked Mubarak directly with specific crimes?

NELSON: Well, as far as we could ascertain, because I should point out that the trial was closed for much of the time. I mean, it was closed to media. In fact, there was a ban on coverage.

But what we were able to ascertain is that even prosecution witnesses - a lot of the senior witnesses in the security services did not bolster the case. I mean, they did not back that there were in fact shoot-to-kill orders, that live ammunition was ordered used by Mubarak or by the senior officials.

INSKEEP: You also mentioned that some of the trial was held behind closed doors. Given that this is all part of an effort to have a public accounting of the crimes in the Mubarak regime, why would they have put some of the trial behind closed doors?

NELSON: Well, the chief judge was very concerned that the lawyers for both sides, and also lawyers representing the civilians who were killed - they were also in the courtroom - that they were pandering to the cameras too much. And he was concerned, or expressed concern anyway, that a lot of the antics in the courtroom could affect the fairness of the trial. In the end, he was very adamant that these defendants, however horrible their crimes are, if they are convicted, that they deserve a fair trial.

INSKEEP: So you're saying that at least in the parts that were public there was nothing that you would describe as a smoking gun, as people like to say, a direct link between Mubarak and specific killings, say.

NELSON: Let's put it this way. There were some midlevel officials who did talk about this, but then they recanted later. And, in fact, one of them was charged with perjury, although he was cleared of that. So, no, none that we could see or hear over the course of those nearly seven months.

INSKEEP: So what happens if Mubarak is convicted in spite of the trial you just described?

NELSON: Well, for sure if he is convicted that this will be appealed. I mean, this is a criminal court here. This is not some revolutionary court or military court where this trial is being held. And so the process - it does have an appellate process. And everyone is expecting that there will be an appeal by Mubarak. And also, it's important to note, Interior Minister Habib al-Adly, who's also charged in this and is believed to be more likely to be convicted.

INSKEEP: And, of course, you already alluded to what might happen if there's an acquittal here.

NELSON: Yes. The fear is that people will be outraged. I mean, whatever concerns there might be at the moment or divisions of ideas about whether the ruling general should stay in charge, whether remnants of the regime should be in the interim government, there's not debate or no question it seems among Egyptians. They are united in their desire to see justice done, to see Mubarak convicted.

INSKEEP: Soraya, thanks very much.

NELSON: You're welcome, Steve.

INSKEEP: That's NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson in Cairo.

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