Mubarak wheeled back to court after 2 months

Analyst: Final round of voting will bring further gains to Islamists

December 29, 2011 04:35
3 minute read.
Mubarak is wheeled in to his trial

hosni mubarak sick 311. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak was wheeled into court on a hospital bed on Wednesday as his trial resumed after a delay of almost two months while lawyers demanded a new judge.

The former leader – who is being held under guard at a military hospital near Cairo because doctors say he has a heart condition – covered his head with his arm as he was wheeled into court surrounded by police. Mubarak, his two sons, the former interior minister and senior police officers face charges ranging from corruption to involvement in the deaths of hundreds of protesters in the uprising that unseated him in February after three decades in power.

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Thanassis Cambanis, a journalist and fellow at the Century Foundation, said Mubarak’s trial has largely been a disappointment for Egyptians and outside observers hoping to see justice served.

“The new rulers of Egypt have been very happy to go after corrupt businessmen from the old regime, who are their rivals for financial power. But they’ve been completely uninterested in going after the police or the government,” said Cambanis, who recently returned from Cairo and is writing a book about the Egyptian revolution.

“The trial began in August, and it’s been in session for less than 10 days in total,” Cambanis said. “In no way is that the wheels of justice turning.”

Egyptian sources, he said, have told him the ruling military council is trying to buy time until Mubarak dies. The former president is rumored to be gravely ill, and indefinitely delaying his verdict could spare him and the military the embarrassment of a conviction.

Egyptians began choosing a parliament a month ago in elections due to last until mid- January, but the vote has taken place in the shadow of violence and an economic crisis. Next week marks the start of the third and final round of parliamentary balloting, which has been dominated by Islamist parties led by the Muslim Brotherhood and even more extreme Salafi movements.

Cambanis said the third round would likely see Islamists consolidate their gains further still.

“The last round is in the most conservative and rural of all the districts. We can expect an even stronger showing for the Islamists and an even weaker one for the liberals than we did in the second round,” he said.

“The only significant difference we might see is a stronger performance for the former regime. Some of the districts running now are the more rural areas with a very strong patronage networks connected to the old ruling National Democratic Party.”

One of the areas still in play is the Sinai Peninsula, where resident Beduin have taken advantage of the post- Mubarak power vacuum to accelerate create a virtually autonomous area and a launch pad for smuggling to the Gaza Strip.

“Sinai is particularly tribal, and particularly rural and underdeveloped, and hardcore jihadist Islamists groups have always had a toehold there,” said Cambanis, author of last year’s book A Privilege to Die: Inside Hezbollah’s Legions and Their Endless War Against Israel.

“We can expect independent tribal candidates to do better there than in other places, as well as very extreme Salafis, and we can expect liberals to be almost nonexistent.”

On Tuesday, Egyptian authorities said they had detained a Sinai man on suspicion of involvement in some of the 10 attacks this year on a gas pipeline from Egypt to Israel.

Egyptian state media said the suspect, from the northern Sinai resort town of El-Arish, was found to have filed on his laptop on how to manufacture and use weapons and explosives.

The Egyptian government said last month it would tighten security measures along the pipeline by installing alarm devices and by recruiting security patrols from local Beduin tribes.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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