The trial of Hosni Mubarak began today. A small scale repeat of the “clearing” and beating that took place in Tahrir Square on Monday occurred just outside the courthouse where pro and anti-Mubarak protesters clashed a bit. If he is convicted of the charges of killing almost 900 people in the uprising against his rule, he could face the death penalty, but I suspect any such conclusion will be a long way down the road given the antics so far exhibited:
The lawyer, Farid al-Deeb, said he wanted to summon a total of more than 1,600 witnesses — a proposal with the apparent potential to turn the trial into an interminable exercise.
At one point, a lawyer for the family of one of the people killed when Mubarak’s forces tried, brutally, to break up the protests in Tahrir Square began waving an ink pad and shouting that Mubarak had never been fingerprinted like a common criminal. Another one wanted a DNA test, to make sure that this was Mubarak, and not a caged impostor. He has been allowed to stay in a hospital, rather than a jail. The extent to which the hospital bed was as much a prop as a necessity was one of the many contentious issues in court in Cairo this morning…There was real surprise that he was, indeed, there; other trials of dictators, over the years, have had endless opening gambits dominated by claims of illness—that the strong man is just too weak—which sometimes derail the proceedings entirely. (See Honecker, Pinochet.) And that is also a theme here.
Still, its nice to see a dictatorial murderer face a judge. Although, as Juan Cole has just written, Americans are waiting for a corresponding show where Bush, Obama, and their minions have to feign illness for sympathy in a criminal trial. Not to mention the fact that Mubarak committed the crimes he is accused of with full American support, including donating the weapons used against demonstrators.