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Egypt

Egyptian interest in Mubarak's fate wanes

The trial against ex-president Mubarak is in a crucial phase, with several witnesses from his inner circle testifying in the coming days. But most Egyptians are more interested in the fate of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The trial of Egypt's overthrown President Hosni Mubarak is about to enter a decisive phase. Starting Saturday (19.01.2013), members of the inner circle of the former regime are set to testify on three consecutive days. Witnesses will include the former chief of police Ahmed Gamal Eddin and the former leader of the security services, Murad Muwafi.

The fact that these two Mubarak allies are testifying could help clear up who bears responsibility for the death of hundreds of people during the popular uprising in 2011 that led to Mubarak's removal from office. An initial sentence against him was declared invalid in January after his lawyers appealed.

Despite the prominence of the witnesses and the defendant, the Egyptian population is preoccupied with other concerns and showing little interest. "After everything the Muslim Brotherhood has done, we are hardly following the lawsuit," said Mustafa Naggar, a lawyer from Cairo. "Whether he is convicted or not doesn't make a difference. In my opinion that's what most Egyptians think. We aren't thinking about the topic anymore."

All eyes on Muslim Brotherhood trial

The current lack of public interest is in stark contrast to Mubarak's emotionally charged first trial, which took place in August 2011. During the proceedings, which saw a former head of state take the stand for the first time in the recent history of the Arab world, millions of Egyptians were glued to their televisiosns.

An Egyptian vendor walks past anti-government posters for a campaign calling for the ouster of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi and for early presidential elections in Cairo.
(Photo: Amr Nabil / AP Photo)

The public enemy is now Morsi, and no longer Mubarak

But much has changed since then. Egypt has gone through another wave of mass protests. Mubarak's successor, Mohammed Morsi, has since also gone on trial, and other leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood are due to take the stand soon.

"Of course people are concentrating on the trials against the Muslim Brotherhood, because they were the last people to govern the country," said Ali, a student who protested against Morsi this summer along with millions of other Egyptians. "During [their rule] there were many problems, and people wanted to know who was responsible. Are members of the Muslim Brotherhood responsible, as the military claims, or are they the oppressed party? That still remains to be seen."

Lack of transparency?

Hosni Mubarak on Egyptian television during court proceedings in 2012.
(Photo: Egyptian State TV / AP / dapd)

Initially most Egyptians followed the trial on television

The anti-Islamic atmosphere in the country, which has been encouraged by Egyptian media, comes at a convenient time for Mubarak's lawyers, who are working hard to rewrite the events of 2011's revolution. They are trying to absolve Mubarak's security forces of guilt for the violence, which is instead being ascribed to the Muslim Brotherhood.

Since the Muslim Brotherhood is losing public trust, it is also becoming all the more unlikely that the results of an investigation of the revolution that was commissioned by Morsi will be taken into consideration during the trial. So far only parts of the report, which sheds a new light on the 18-day popular uprising, have been released. In these excerpts, several witnesses accuse the police and the army of committing serious human rights abuses in 2011.

Observers of the trial are disappointed by its lack of transparency. Judge Mahmud al-Raschidi had initially promised to televise all court sessions, but has now declared a news embargo for the coming days of trial, citing national security concerns.

Mubarak full of praise for al-Sisi

Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, 85, is escorted by medical and security personnel into an ambulance to be taken by helicopter ambulance from Maadi Military Hospital to court in Cairo in August 2013.
(Photo: Amr Nabil / AP Photo)

Former president Hosni Mubarak is under house arrest in an Egyptian military hospital

Mubarak himself seemed in good spirits in the past few days of proceedings. The 85-year-old waved to his supporters as he was wheeled into the courtroom on a stretcher. The fact that he was released from prison two month ago and is now under house arrest in a military hospital has not led to any protests.

Instead, some Egyptians are nostalgic for the order of the Mubarak era in light of the chaos that has ensued since his rule ended. There is even an online campaign to encourage him to run for president again.

But the nostalgia for Mubarak is largely being overshadowed by euphoria over Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the Egyptian army chief. The popular public figure would probably win a current election hands down.

Mubarak also seems to be one of al-Sisi's admirers. In a recording that was leaked to the Egyptian newspaper "Youm 7," Mubarak is heard discussing the political situation in Egypt with friends. In comments not dissimilar to ones made by members of the current government, he said Egypt needs "someone from the military, someone strong with clear goals. There are some good people in the army."

DW.DE