Friday 12 August 2011

Quickly: Mubarak's Lawyers' next chess move...

People watching live the Mubarak trial outside the Police Academy, where the trial session was held

Mubarak's lawyers are anything but fools. What's worse, they're desperate to win, at any cost. And today the former president's lawyers demanded the criminal records of all those who died during the January 25 Revolution, referred to in Egypt as the "Revolution's Martyrs." Here's probably why.

Logic stipulated that not everyone who died at the hands of the Police and Security forces during the 18 days of the Revolution were necessarily "innocent bystanders" or "peaceful protesters." Some were indeed killed while trying to break into police stations; some might have picked or stolen weapons off police personnel and looted gun shops, though mostly were probably in self-defence; and there was a minor debate at one point that possibly a few casualties were not even related to the revolution, though even if that were true, they would be an insignificant minority within the total death and injury toll. Most likely of course, at least few would turn out to have had criminal priors, misdemeanors, and other minor offences.

Building on a very visible decline in public support for protests and revolutionaries at the moment, while of course it helps when the regime is the one who either designed the laws themselves with their many loopholes or already are quite well aware of them, Mubarak's lawyers will try to argue the case that many weapons were indeed stolen, and that even any cases of security forces firing live ammunition were in self-defence in a chaotic atmosphere where weapons were being stolen and fired around by ex-felons, essentially more at their natural enemy: police forces. Also, nothing would stop them from saying that they were fired as well by (and possibly against) confused and scared protesters with personal items worth stealing, with theft as a motivation. While I don't imagine outright acquittal, especially for former Interior Minister Habib El Adly, that game might at least be enough to bring down the final punishment from the possible extremes of the Death Penalty, and that such a spontaneous violence by the police means that Mubarak had nothing to do with the deaths. Mubarak could walk out a free man, or on a hospital bed, that is, or at least save himself from the capital punishment. Frankly, it will interestingly depend on how good the prosecution team is (the prosecution team is strong, but we did not witness an inspiring start by the families of the "martyrs'" lawyers, who are two separate teams in this case), how the witnesses and Mubarak's co-defendants respond under pressure and possibly "reveal", and how much sympathy Mubarak has garnered throughout his trial. If Mubarak generates more sympathy like he did that first day, even a convinced court would be very reluctant to sentence him to anything except permanent medical confinement.

Update: a few commentators brought up the idea that Mubarak's lawyers are stalling for time, hoping he would just die of natural causes. While I do agree they want to buy time, I disagree that this necessarily a natural death would be the reason. Also, I don't think the execution or "sacrifice" of El Adly is such a fait accompli as some might suggest. I think he can pretty much destroy whatever case Mubarak's lawyers might build, and any defense will probably be coordinated.

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