Ex-president’s trial starts in Egypt amid growing disillusionment

Ousted Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is due to appear at a court over charges of corruption and sanctioning the killing of protesters during the February uprising. But the future of both the trial and the whole country is rather uncertain.

­The court proceedings is set to be broadcast live from Cairo, where the leader will be tried along with his two sons and senior aides.

The charges against Mubarak carry a possible death sentence if he is found guilty of premeditated killings.

The trial, however, is already associated with plenty of tribulations. Many Egyptians say for the transitional military council which governs Egypt now, the choice between prosecuting the former leader and postponing the trial is a choice between bad and worse – and it is not clear which is which.

An open trial may result in revelations about shady deals of the former government, which may well implicate many of the people who are still in power in Egypt.

The alternative is to put the process on hold, possibly due to Mubarak’s deteriorating health. The former president has been held in a hospital for most of the time since his resignation, and he reportedly has a heart condition and severe depression.

Some angry Egyptians say this is just a pretext to cheat justice and stall reforms. With a second wave of protests erupting recently, a decision to delay Mubarak’s trial may result in the fall of the government and disruption of what is left of stability in Egypt.

­“Hungry people don’t care about democracy”

­Indeed the economic perils, which were one of the major reasons why Egyptians took to the streets in January, are only getting worse. Unemployment is at an all-time high and millions are struggling to make ends meet.

Ebonist Mohamed has been running his own business for 35 years. It used to bring him enough money to send his son to study to Canada and take his large family abroad once a year. But with the economic devastation caused by unrest and political uncertainty, his enterprise has been badly affected – now he can barely afford to feed his children. He says the wind of change may have brought freedom to Egypt, but it has brought a survival storm in its wake.

“You know I loved the revolution when it happened, I welcomed it. That looked at that time like a light at the end of the tunnel. But you see it’s not getting any better. If we have nothing to eat just don’t tell me about democracy! For hungry people it just doesn’t matter,” Mohamed says.

Economic growth has dropped from five to just one per cent. Some 13 million people live below the breadline. Unemployment has hit 12 per cent.

Egypt’s revolution was regarded as the most-successful chapter of the Arab Spring. It took 18 days to end one of the world’s longest dictatorships. But five months on, there is little satisfaction, and dictator-free Egypt is far from the best place to live.

“I’m afraid that the people are getting very tired and they are also getting very hopeless. The people now are talking about Mubarak as being much better than today, than the revolution. It’s a very sad result,”
says Abdallah Al Ashal, former minister of foreign affairs.

People are indeed tired – even those who backed the changes. Nasser Abdel Hamid is from the Revolution Youth Coalition. He tries to remain optimistic, but what he says sounds a lot like self-conviction.

“We’ve been living under Mubarak for many, many years. Too many, I’d say. It’s great what we did. We just need to wait. Just need to be patient. It’s hard to do, so much trouble we have now. But we need to wait. For a bit more time,” Hamid says.

Recent renewed demonstrations in Tahir Square show that their stoicism is being pushed to the limit. And it is protests versus patience in the battle to save Egypt from crumbling further.

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