Lina Attalah: Military sending message that Mubarak trial the last concession to the revolution - August 4, 2011
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Lina Attalah is the Managing Editor at Egypt Independent (formerly Al-Masry Al-Youm English Edition). Lina studied journalism at the American University in Cairo. Before joining Egypt Independent, she wrote for Reuters, Cairo Times, the Daily Star, and the Christian Science Monitor, among others. In 2005, she worked as radio producer and campaign coordinator with the BBC World Service Trust in Darfur, Sudan. She also worked as project manager for a number of research-based projects with multimedia outputs around the themes of space, mobility, and intellectual history. Lina is particularly drawn to border areas, where human geography issues of conflict and desire are rampant.
DANYA NADAR, TRNN: Hosni Mubarak's trial began on August 3, pleading not-guilty to corruption charges and to killing protesters during Egypt's 18-day-long revolution. The image of the ailing former Egyptian president was broadcast on national television and across the world in the military's attempt to set a precedent that it intends to prosecute members of the former regime in response to protesters' demands.LINA ATTALAH, MANAGING EDITOR, AL-MASRY AL-YOUM: Mubarak today made his first public appearance since 10 February, this time in a dock inside the courtroom that was prepared particularly to host the hearings of his case alongside his two sons, the minister of interior--former minister of interior, Habib el-Adly, and his six aides. Those guys are being charged over three main things: the killing of protesters during the revolution, the squandering of public funds through the case of exploiting gas to Israel at very low rates, and profiteering by acquiring five villas by Hosni Mubarak and his sons with fraudulent contracts. The case today was mostly a procedural hearing. So, basically, the judge heading the case of the Cairo Criminal Court, whose name is Ahmed Refaat, was basically just hearing the demands of both the lawyers of the defendants and the lawyers of the families of the marchers. Most of the demands made from both sides were about requesting to hear more testimonies from witnesses. One particular demand made by both parties was to someone, Field Marshal Tantawi, the head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, to give his testimonial about the case. Mubarak himself and the other defendants didn't get to speak much. They just proved their presence to the judge and denied the allegations against them.NADAR: Although much of the focus has been on the clashes held outside of the Cairo courtroom by the small number of pro-Mubarak supporters and protesters, most Egyptians were glued to their television screens with mixed emotions.ATTALAH: A lot of people were feeling bad for their former president showing up in a prison cage or in a prison dock, lying on a bed, on a hospital bed, and seeing him completely beaten. There was a lot of sympathy towards that. But, of course, the revolutionary activists were quite happy with the fact that he showed up, especially that there was there was mounting cynicism that he would show in court. But there is still skepticism about the extent to which the trial is going to be fair. The worry mostly is from the judicial proceedings, the fact that there haven't been enough investigations, the fact that the charges were articulated [incompr.] a lot of other issues are worrying people about the extent to which this is going to be a decisive trial in the sense of, you know, Mubarak getting his due punishment for crimes related to political corruption and other crimes.NADAR: On August 1, the Security Council of the Armed Forces, popularly known as the SCAF, violently removed remaining demonstrators from Tahrir Square. Although not an isolated event, it is rare that the military acts with such hostility in broad daylight. With the trial and the forcible removable of protesters coinciding, Lina Attalah addresses whether the military is sending a message to the revolutionaries.ATTALAH: There is concern that now that the trial is taking place, that there will--that no more pressure is going to be tolerated in any way. And the situation is tricky for revolutionaries now, because they don't have the same public support that they used to have at the beginning of the revolution. There is some feeling that there is a widening divide between the SCAF and/or the army at large and the people and the Revolution, and there isn't public endorsement for this divide. One small footnote to that is that there are concerns about the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces being implicated in the case after the defendants' lawyers today at the court demanding the testimonial of Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, who's the head of the council. Perhaps the council, the ruling military council, is trying to send a message to protesters, saying that no more pressure is going to be tolerated now that, you know, a great concession has been made to let Mubarak appear in court. There might be concerns about the Council itself being implicated in the case, now that there are demands [incompr.] the court for the council's members to show up to show up for testimonials. We're yet to see what will happen in the next hearings. The next Mubarak hearing is set for 15 August, so we will know then.NADAR: Although the Mubarak trial marks a pivotal point in the Egyptian revolution, it remains unclear how the military plans on responding to the rest of the protesters' demands, one of which is handing over power to civilian government.ATTALAH: The extent to which this is believed to be the beginning of a continuing of the democratic practice and catered to by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces is a question beyond us. We all have a lot of question marks about SCAF's intentions at this point. This confusion about the role that the military is envisaging for itself in the political process is a contentious question in and of itself, because we believe the military should have no role whatsoever, they should just return to their barracks and have their safe exit from this transitional process and turn over power as soon as possible to a civilian government through elections. However, we're not sure how they want to articulate their position in this process, provided that obviously they also don't want to be completely ousted from the political process in a way that would even endanger their position as this institution that is very exclusivist in its practices and that is beyond accountability in terms of its budgets and so on. So that leaves us with a lot of questions marks about what it is--what is the military up to in terms of the position it wants to play in the country's political future. Yes, they are for free and fair elections; yes, they are for getting or for setting elections on time in November; yes, they are for a transparent process of constitution writing. But they're also up to something with regards to their role in all of this, and this is a question that worries a lot of people here.
End of Transcript
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