First Published in: Dunia Magazine
On 3 August 2011, Egyptians and the world watched in shock as Hosni Mubarak, the man who had ruled Egypt with an iron fist for almost 30 years, was wheeled into a Cairo, Egypt courtroom in a cage serving as a dock, to stand trial for crimes allegedly committed during his repressive reign. To most Egyptians and victims of oppression worldwide, this was a symbolic day; and one will remain edged in the minds of dictators and oppressors in Africa and the Middle East.
It is known that Hosni Mubarak ruled Egypt for almost 30 years and was kicked out of office after the historic 18-day popular uprising that started when on 25 January 2011, Egyptians from all walks of life – Christians and Muslims, men, women and children – took to the streets of this beautiful and historic country, from Cairo to Alexandria, and other parts of the Land of the Pharaohs, demanding an end to ”emergency rule” and of 30 years of oppression. The 18 days, millions of protesters braved water cannons, tear gas and live bullets; hundreds lost their lives and thousands more sustained injuries from clashes with security agents, but these ultimately culminated in the ouster of Hosni Mubarak.
Grappling at Straws
In a desperate bid to stop the protests, Hosni Mubarak had dismissed his cabinet, appointed a Vice President and a new Prime Minister, and asked the Prime Minister to form a new government.
This was Mubarak’s idea of ”political reform”; dismissed by the people who recognized them to be the cosmetic changes they really were. It became clear Egyptians were not going to settle for anything order than an end to the almost three decades of Mubarak rule, a democratic Egypt and justice for victims of 30 years of repression.
Faced with mounting pressure and no signs of protesters throwing in the towel, Mubarak unexpectedly resigned on 11 February 2011. Mubarak’s resignation was, no doubt, historic, and welcomed by millions of Egyptians, but this did not get him off the hook.
Demonstrators continued to pressure the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, in charge of facilitating Egypt’s transition to democracy, to bring the former president to justice for crimes committed during his time in office.
The Wheels of Justice
In May 2011, Hosni Mubarak was charged for corruption and ordering the killings of peaceful pro-democracy demonstrators during the mass protests that culminated in his ouster.
Despite these strides, many in Egypt and abroad remained skeptical and never thought the strongman would ever be brought to trial.
On 3 August, the world was overwhelmed and shocked as they watched Mubarak wheeled into court on a hospital bed to plead ”guilty” or ”not guilty” to the charges brought against him. On this day, Egyptians on social networking sites made no secret of their feelings.
On Twitter, an Egyptian woman wrote:
"I’m in shock. #Mubaraktrial started. #Mubarak & sons in courtroom, as well as ex-minister of interior.”
Another Egyptian tweeted:
”… #MubarakTrial officially started. And I might start crying any minute now. Long live #jan25.”
Many never thought this day would come.
Power by the People
Hosni Mubarak in the dock, after 30 years in the highest office in the land, is a grim reminder to dictators around the world that power comes from the people and those who abuse power will one day have their day in court. The brave people of Egypt have shown to the world especially those living in oppression that it is possible to peacefully demand the removal of oppressors and drag them to court for crimes committed while in office. Circumstances might be different in other countries, but there is one major similarity: the government’s power comes from the people.
Hosni Mubarak is innocent of all charges until proven guilty. If found guilty, the strongman could be slapped with the highest penalty in the land – death.
Regardless of the outcome of the Mubarak trial, 3 August 2011 has gone down in history as a fairly good day for the rule of law in Egypt. The image of ”almighty” Mubarak in a cage will forever revolutionalize the way Egyptians in power do business. Believe it or not.
A quick and fair trial of Mubarak and his cronies is what is needed to put Egypt on the path to peace and stability.
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