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Deposed Egyptian leader may face trial

April 14th, 2011

Breaking nearly two months of silence, deposed Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak made a pre-recorded announcement last Sunday denying any abuse of power during his thirty years in office.

The ex-president affirmed that he will fully cooperate with authorities to prove he did not accumulate wealth by abusing his power, and promised that he will pursue legal action against those attempting to smear his reputation.

Soon after the pre-recorded speech aired, Egypt’s chief prosecutor Abdel Meguid Mahmoud asserted that he had issued orders summoning the ex-president and his two sons for questioning.

Mubarak’s speech came in response to Friday’s rally, which activists dubbed as a rally “to protect the revolution.”

Thousands of Egyptians returned to Tahrir Square in Cairo, creating the largest demonstration since Mubarak’s resignation.

The crowd demanded the former president, along with key members of his party be put on trial, as well as the immediate release of political prisoners.

Earlier last week, Mahmoud froze the personal bank accounts of Sawfat El-Shrief, the ex-speaker of Egypt’s Shura Council, Fathi Suror, the ex-speaker of the People’s Assembly, and Zakriya Azmi, Mubarak’s chief of staff.  These 3 key members of Mubarak’s party were then detained for 15 days pending an investigation of corruption and abuse of power.

Some demonstrators also demanded the immediate resignation of Field Marshall Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, the man who heads the military council and is one of Mubarak’s closest and most loyal allies.

“Either Field Marshal Tantawi puts these people – Mubarak, Gamal [Mubarak’s son] and the others – on trial, or he leaves his post and lets someone else do it,” Ashraf Abdel-Aziz, a shop owner, told Reuters. “The slowness of the process makes people suspicious that the army [leadership] might be implicated.”

According to a diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks, Tantwi was described as “aged and change resistant.”

The cable also notes that Tantawi “has opposed policy initiatives he views as encouraging political or religious cleavages within Egyptian society.”

Among those demonstrating were some ten uniformed military officers who defied direct orders and joined in the protests.

The Washington Post reported that shortly after 3 a.m., military vehicles stormed into the square firing into the air in an attempt to disperse the protesting crowd.  As a result, at least two have been killed and 15 more injured.  According to eyewitnesses, the protesting officers were arrested. Critics of the military believe, it’s still part of the old regime and is its means of protection.

“Obviously, the Supreme Council is not supporting the people’s interests,” Ahmed Naguib, one of the protest leaders who said he helped plan Friday’s march told The Wall Street Journal.

On the other hand, those associated with the military argue that due to its unpreparedness to be in the situation they are in, the transition to a civilian government will be longer.

“They are well versed and knowledgeable individuals, but they were not prepared for what they are doing right now,” Nabil Fouad, a retired general and professor of strategic studies told The New York Times.

“The army was suddenly handed this mission, and it was complicated even more by the absence of the police,” Fouad said.

As for Mubarak, because he is a former Air Force hero, it will be difficult for the military to see the former commander stand trial.

Some argue that it is now time for the nation to heal. They believe Mubarak’s prosecution will do more harm than good, while others believe the healing process cannot begin until Mubarak faces justice.

In any case, the decision of whether or not to prosecute Mubarak may only be judged by history.

In the meantime, The New York Times reported Tuesday that Mubarak was hospitalized, though his health problems were deemed to be not very severe. Prosecutors were then permitted to question the ousted president. Hours after their father’s hospitalization, Mubarak’s two sons were then detained pending an investigation of corruption and abuse of power early Wednesday morning. A few hours later, Mubarak himself was also detained at the hospital.