Monday, June 4, 2012

Hosni Mubarak is in jail – but little has changed for Egypt

As long as powerful players remain in their positions the birth pangs of the revolution are set to be painful and protracted.

For the first time in Egypt's history the pharaoh is behind bars. But the joy was not unalloyed. Some of his most powerful henchmen, the backbone of his police state, were acquitted of killing the protesters and are now free. That's why Tahrir Square in Cairo and other cities have erupted in anger.

What also infuriated the public was that Mubarak was found guilty not of what he did, but rather of what he did not do. That's how seemingly preposterous (but apparently technically correct) the verdict is. The former president was proven guilty of something like "serious dereliction of duty": he failed to stop the killing of protesters.

The absence of incriminating evidence – as cited by Judge Ahmed Rifaat – was the most shockingly appalling of all facts, considering that Egyptians, in fact the whole world, saw on their television screens how the police shot and mauled the protesters last year.

The verdict should not have come as a surprise for those who followed the trial closely. The prosecutors failed to provide material proof (there was some circumstantial evidence on the type of weapons and ammunition issued to the anti-riot police) of specific orders from top police chiefs to the boots on the ground. At one point, the prosecutors publicly complained to the court that the police and intelligence services had refused to co-operate with the investigation.

The question now is why those agencies and the men who control them (all of them Mubarak-era appointees) have not been charged with "severe dereliction of duty" or, even worse, obstruction of justice. The answer is simple: they still rule Egypt.

From the day Mubarak was toppled to the start of the trial, records at the country's powerful state security investigations service (now renamed Egyptian homeland security) were destroyed; crucial videotapes from security cameras outside the Egyptian Museum at Tahrir Square were erased. Anyone charged or brought to court? No one.

The shocking acquittals of the top police chiefs have again raised the issue – with added urgency this time – of the unfinished business of the Egyptian revolution: the government and the coercive machinery of the state are still in the hands of people who – if not outright hostile – are at best not friends of the revolution. They don't actually use the word "revolution" but refer to it as al-ahdath ("the events").

Even junior police officers accused of shooting the protesters haven't even been suspended from work and their trials are constantly adjourned. The conclusion: the Mubarak regime cannot and will not try the Mubarak regime.

As long as these powerful players remain in their positions the birth pangs of the new order are set to be painful and protracted. They control state media, the police, the intelligence services and, of course, the army. Many key positions in the civilian administrations and public sector corporations are also held by former army or intelligence officers, who remain loyal to the old regime.

These are people whose mental maps belong to the past century, constantly drumming up the spectre of Israel and the west to silence efforts to open up their fiefdoms to public scrutiny. They hide behind the traditional rhetoric of national and strategic interests while in fact what they are hiding are vested interests and privilege.

Take two examples. The chief of general intelligence, Major-General Murad Muwafi, is known to believe that the "events" were a foreign conspiracy. A minister like Fayza Abul Naga – the woman behind the recent witchhunt of NGOs – has spoken of an American-Zionist conspiracy against Egypt. Ironically, for an official in charge of international co-operation, she believes the west is manipulating impressionable Egyptian youth to destroy Egypt.

One of their most effective weapons against the revolution and the west has been to crank up the xenophobia machine in state media and other rumour mills, which almost immediately translates into attacks on western journalists. A most recent example: a European press photographer was viciously attacked by a "Mubarak supporter" outside the court room after the verdict was announced on Saturday.

Now as the Muslim Brotherhood appears poised to rule the country, the same disinformation machine is portraying them as agents of foreign powers that include, bizarrely, in one swoop America, Iran, Qatar and Israel. The crassness of the allegations betrays panic, but works well where large swaths of the population are either illiterate or politically unaware.

These people have been in government for so long and appear to be psychologically incapable of conceiving of themselves shorn of power and influence. They will stop at nothing. However, sooner or later (it may be in a few months or a few years, yet the momentum for change is unstoppable) they will find themselves forced to hand over the levers of state to a new elite.

Will they do so quietly and peacefully? They will most certainly drag their feet, using existing Mubarak era laws to thwart change. One thing is sure, though: they will not go without a fight.

What many fear most is the "Gaza moment": that's when the fight over the control of the police and security forces between Fatah and Hamas, that had just won the 2006 election and was about to assume formal power, plunged Gaza into civil war in 2007. One hopes that the differences between Egypt and the Palestinian territories are big enough to make such a scenario near impossible.

the original article : guardian by Magdi Abdelhadi

Egyptian opposition groups call for mass protests over Mubarak appeal

Revolutionary forces demand mass demonstrations in Cairo as deposed president announces appeal and row grows over polls.

Egyptian opposition and revolutionary forces have called for a million-strong demonstration in Tahrir Square to denounce the verdict in the trial of the former president, Hosni Mubarak, and protest against the candidacy of his prime minister in the election run-off.

The vote will see the Muslim Brotherhood candidate, Mohamed Morsi, challenge Mubarak's ally, Ahmed Shafik, for the presidency after the first round of elections saw them come first and second.

However, the third-, fourth- and seventh-placed candidates, Hamdeen Sabahy, Abdel-Moneim Abul-Futoh and Khaled Ali, have cast doubt on the legality of the first round and issued a joint statement claiming electoral fraud in the first round. The three losing candidates met with Morsi on Monday to consider ways to proceed.

The idea of a joint presidential council has been proposed by Ali, which would ignore the elections and its results. Sabahy has filed a legal complaint in an attempt to void the results of the first round, hoping that a ruling would force the polls to be repeated.

Morsi still has a chance to win the election, however, making the Brotherhood reticent about joining forces with the other candidates and forgoing the elections. Rather, it would prefer to have the other candidates' backing for Morsy in round two.

Michael Hanna, a fellow at the Century Foundation thinktank, said: "There's obvious anger with regards to the [Mubarak] verdicts among certain sectors, but in a recurring theme, it's difficult to see how this might be translated into effective political actions."

The failure to reach a unified front is fragmenting the opposition and weakening its position.

All of the candidates agree to oppose Shafik, suggesting a victory for him would signal a return of the Mubarak regime and its oppressive security apparatus. Shafik, however, insists his policies represent a break with the past.

There is also anger at the Mubarak trial verdict, which saw the deposed leader sentenced to life in prison but spared the death penalty over the killing of protesters during the street revolt that ended his three-decade rule.

Source : Guardian

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