Mubarak's Trial Ends, Sentencing Set For June
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The trial of Egypt's former President Hosni Mubarak ended today. It's been running for the past seven months, and it will take three more before there's a verdict. The judge set June 2nd as the date for a decision. Mubarak could get a death sentence.
Prosecutors want him executed for causing the deaths of protesters during the uprising that forced him from power last year. But some Egyptians believe prosecutors failed to prove that Mubarak ordered security forces to shoot to kill. NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson is Cairo.
SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON, BYLINE: It was to Egyptians to see Mubarak go on trial last August - live on television, no less. Their authoritarian president of three decades looked worried and frail as he was wheeled into the courtroom on a hospital gurney. At Mubarak's side were his two sons. They were also on trial, along with his former interior minister and a handful of other security officials. At the time, many Egyptians thought the trial - held in a regular criminal court - would bring them justice and close the book on a hated regime that sparked a revolution. Mubarak and his sons appeared nervous, as if sensing the cards were stacked against them.
NATHAN BROWN: One of the most interesting things about the trial has been that it's been tried by a regular Egyptian court.
NELSON: Nathan Brown is a professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University.
BROWN: A lot of countries that undergo transitions set up special courts, revolutionary tribunals, transitional mechanisms of transitional justice, that sort of thing. But the Egyptian judiciary and the Egyptian political system seems to be insisting that this is just, from a legal perspective, a normal case like any other.
NELSON: But many people say they've seen clear signs that this case is anything but normal. One of them is Zahraa Said, the sister of a young businessman and political activist from Alexandria who was beaten to death in June 2010 by police officers.
ZAHRAA SAID: (Foreign language spoken)
NELSON: She asks: What other Egyptian defendant is flown in by helicopter to his trial, allowed to stay at a private hospital and don expensive clothes rather than a prison uniform? The Mubarak trial had other unusual moments as well, like when lawyers early on engaged in screaming matches and fisticuffs captured on TV.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Foreign language spoken)
NELSON: The three-judge panel accused them of pandering for the cameras and subsequently banned live media coverage. They say the move was necessary to ensure a fair trial. The government also ordered a media blackout on pivotal testimony from senior military and former intelligence officials. Gamal Eid, a lawyer who advocates for families of the dead and wounded protesters, attended the trial.
GAMAL EID: (Foreign language spoken)
NELSON: He says he didn't have a problem with the judges ordering testimony to be kept secret in hopes that witnesses wouldn't influence each other. But the lawyer and others say they are troubled by what they believe was the prosecution's poorly prepared case. Prosecution witnesses and high-ranking officials failed to link Mubarak to the live ammunition or shoot-to-kill orders. One midlevel official who did make the connection subsequently recanted.
EID: (Foreign language spoken)
NELSON: Eid says it would have helped to have police officers who actually killed protesters testify and to match bullets that killed protesters with those fired by police. The last day of the trial was spent with closing arguments from the defense team and the accused. For his part, Mubarak waived his right to make a statement. But he offered this line from a 10th-century Arab poet: My country, if unfair to me, is still dear, he said. Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, NPR News, Cairo.
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