Thursday,19 July, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1216, (2 - 8 October 2014)
Thursday,19 July, 2018
Issue 1216, (2 - 8 October 2014)

Ahram Weekly

Yet another delay

Once dubbed the trial of the century, the case against former autocrat Hosni Mubarak is still hobbling towards a conclusion. Ahmed Morsy reports

Al-Ahram Weekly

On Saturday Judge Mahmoud Kamel Al-Rashidi delayed the verdict in the appeal of toppled president Hosni Mubarak to 29 November. Mubarak, who is being retried on charges of failing to prevent the killing of at least 846 peaceful protesters during the 2011 uprising against his rule was sent back to Maadi military hospital following the decision.

Al-Rashidi said the delay was needed to allow the court panel more time to study the 160,000 page case file. Mubarak’s interior minister Habib Al-Adli and six of Adli’s top aides face the same charge as the toppled autocrat. The case also involves Mubarak’s sons Gamal and Alaa, and fugitive businessman Hussein Salem, who are accused of abuse of power and corruption.

In June 2012 Mubarak and Al-Adli were sentenced to life imprisonment. In January 2013 the Cairo Court of Appeals overturned the verdict and ordered a retrial which began in April 2013.

During Saturday’s court session Al-Rashidi said that his decision to delay judgment was based on Article 172 of the Criminal Procedures Law which allows judges to postpone verdicts.

“The court realises that this case has attracted national interest and is not a normal criminal hearing,” Al-Rashidi said.

Regarding the legal justification of postponing the verdict, Lawyer Yasser Ahmed accepts that the judge has the right to postpone the verdict “in order to have the time needed to review the documents” but adds that it “has to set a firm deadline for concluding th3 review”.

Gamal Eid, head of the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, said that while he did not feel comfortable with the court’s decision he was not surprised. “It is part of a pattern of violations of the sovereignty of the law in Egypt,” he said.

Al-Rashidi, president of Cairo Criminal Court, told Reuters’ affiliated Aswat Masriya news website that he had been hospitalised a day before the anticipated verdict and was escorted to the court session on Saturday by a medical team. He blamed an eye and vertebral column condition for preventing him from completing more than 60 per cent of the draft the court’s decision, adding that he will soon be travelling to France for medical treatment.

Controversy surrounding the postponed verdict was compounded by Al-Rashidi’s permission to allow a video to be shown during the hearing justifying the delay.

The session opened with the screening of a video report by Sada Al-Balad private channel. Dramatic music played in the background as the cameras surveyed the two rooms in Al-Rashidi’s apartment where the trial judges meet and case papers are stored as hard copies and on computers. The two rooms were stacked floor to ceiling with binders containing the case documents.

Lawyer Hassan Abul-Enein expressed his astonishment that the media had been granted permission to enter the judge’s home and examine the papers of a trial that has not yet been concluded. “It’s the first time, and hopefully the last, I will witness a television presenter looking into the papers of a criminal case before a judgment has been issued,” Abul-Enein said during an interview with Al-Hayat channel.

Al-Rashidi responded to criticisms of the video screening by claiming his intention was to show the magnitude of the documents the court must review and counter the inevitable accusations that the delay was for political reasons. “I didn’t break any laws by presenting the video showing the case documents. I would have happily issued the verdict during Saturday’s session had my health not prevented me from completing the draft,” Al-Rashidi said.

Mubarak is currently serving a three-year prison sentence for embezzling LE100 million of state funds. Alaa and Gamal received four year sentences in the same case.

But the embezzlement charges, says veteran human rights activist and lawyer Negad Al-Borai, were only ever intended a sop to public opinion.

“It is like charging someone who stands accused of crimes against humanity with illegally parking his car,” Al-Borai said.

Mubarak and his regime should have been held accountable before the law for the thousands killed and jailed during his three decade-long rule, insists Al-Borai.

“The killing of peaceful protesters in his final days is the tip of the iceberg. He was responsible for 30 years of horrifying crimes against Egyptians. For the current regime to ignore such crimes means on of two things: either it agrees on such crimes and intends to repeat them, or it agrees but intends to cover them up.”

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