Those who saw the trial of deposed Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak have split into two groups. One felt a sense of pride and triumph, while the other felt sorrow and defeat. The happy ones believe the trial is an enforcement of justice and a route for legitimacy and stress that it is a revolution against tyranny and corruption. The sad ones view the trial as the victorious party's revenge and a political ploy in which the ruling parties today are taking part so as to search for legitimacy for themselves. More seriously, it is a door to a bleak future the like of which even the 1952 revolution which deposed the monarchy did not practice.
Even Mubarak's supporters do not deny the regime's problems and mistakes but believe the man has lost everything and this is a very heavy price and the new rulers should establish for a better future that is not based on exacting revenge from the past. They believe that Mubarak's era was the most tolerant and freedoms of the Egyptian eras and that generations should read history as it really is.
Anyone who hears the two sides' opinion finds it reasonable. What is reasonable?
In my opinion, the trial should indeed lay the foundation for justice and prudent governance, as its advocates say, but the world and the Egyptians in particular should see that it is based on law, and law alone, and not turned into a political trial. Leveling accusations, which mean presenting facts and giving the defendants their full rights to defend themselves, will be a source of pride for Egyptian justice and will in fact lay down the foundation for the concept of respecting the rule and applying it to all, starting with the head of the state. The fear, reiterated by the rejectionists, is that there is no possibility of justice with all the voices of revenge and the intimidation of adversaries and that the trial was rushed to placate the demonstrators and not in accord with the rule of litigation and defense in Egyptian law.
Campaigns have appeared in the Egyptian arena attacking the defendants' lawyers and inciting against them while Egyptian justice itself guarantees the defendant's right to the best possible defense system. Following the first session of Mubarak's trial, criticisms spread against allowing television cameras through which the defendants, such as Ala and Jamal, are seen in the cage behaving to suit the camera and that they were not shackled and were jovial when they left. These criticisms express the desire to shorten the trial to just condemnation and criminalization and this indicates it might be like the trials of coupists in the Arab countries, just a television spectacle for the new legitimacy.
Amidst this argument, no one denies bringing the deposed ruler to account, but not by the victors but by a really independent judiciary wherein the trial is a deterrent against a repetition of wrong practices later on by the new regime and thus it fears the abuse of power and society establishes the principle of accountability itself.
The fact is that, despite the media pressure on it, the judicial system in Egypt differs from other Arab systems by a considerable experience even under previous governments. Several judges during Mubarak's rule did not agree with his decisions and had a unique role in objecting to the laws of extension [of emergency laws] and the elections practices. When we hear today the legal argument outside the court we find that the culture of law in Egypt's society is refined and the legal argument dominates the discussions of politicians and media figures and not just the judicial establishments' circles.
I am certain that we will see in future a blame game for and disavowal of what is happening today being exchanged unless the victors use today the road of accountability to set stands, not for exacting revenge with jail and execution.
Abdul Rahman Al Rashed is General Manager of Al Arabiya, and an internationally known columnist