A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Saturday, June 2, 2012

The Verdict: Life. So Why is Everyone So Angry?

When I woke thus morning I checked my phone for news headlines and learned the verdict in Mubarak's case was life imprisonment. Given his age, any sentence was likely to mean he would end his days in (possibly comfortable) custody, and it seemed a judicious judgment to me: no one really expected they sere going to impose a death sentence, and it seemed harsh enough to satisfy all but the most bloodthirsty, while an acquittal would provoke outrage. I thought it was probably going to be an acceptable decision.
Qasr al-Nil Bridge
I'm sure that for many, it is. What the headline alone did not disclose, however, was the fact that only Mubarak and Interior Minister Habib al-Adly received life sentences; everyone else, the Mubarak sons, the senior police and State Security officials, were acquitted.
Mohammed Mahmoud
 by AUC Graffiti Wall
Assembling in Tahrir
As the crowds erupted in demonstrations all over Egypt, reporters have had no trouble finding protesters who are calling for execution, and perhaps are missing finding the more nuanced view of those who are most outraged by acquittals of all but the top two men. (Don't we all remember pictures of Mubarak and Adly, standing alone shoulder to shoulder, gunning down protesters as the State Security forces looked on in horror? Me neither.) Others are worried on legal grounds that because the prosecution did not call every potential witness nor introduce every piece of evidence, the verdict has set up a scenario for the Court of Cassation to void the sentence on appeal, and everybody gets off scot free. (Part of the case might be: if all the lower-echelon police generals and heads were innocent, how can the two top bosses be guilty?)

Tahrir tonight

I suspect, too, that a lot of the outpouring into the streets today is a response not just to the verdict, but to the result of the first round of Presidential elections. First, the revolution seems about to end in either the  bang of a Muslim Brotherhood President and Parliament or the whimper of a neo-Mubarak in the person of Gen. Shafiq; then comes the verdict which, if at first seeming to be a stiff one for Mubarak and Adly, on reflection seems to have punished only the figureheads and left untouched those who actually gave the order to fire.
Tahrir After Dark
Whether today's huge outpourings are transient or a sign of renewed confrontation remains to be seen. The Brotherhood's candidate, Morsi, is said to be in the square, along with several of the failed Presidential candidates. The Brotherhood missed out on the initial revolutionary fervor last year and doesn't want to make that mistake again.

There was already a lot of anger and frustration after the elections, in which the revolutionaries found that sometimes democracy doesn't produce the result you dreamt it would; but other than denouncing Shafiq there was no great rallying point. Now the frustration is shared by many, including the Islamists, who were content with the electoral results. This could provide fuel for a rough runoff campaign and new violence.

Would the results of the election have been different if the verdict had come first? The Arabist labels as "Pic of the Day" this one of Hamdeen Sabahi crowd-surfing in the Tahrir protesters: and remember, he ran a rather close third behind Morsi and Shafiq. (Note: flag in foreground with green stripe is the Free Syrian flag):

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great blog, Mike. Future does not bode well...