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Hosni Mubarak trial marks a turning point for the Arab Spring

Last update - Monday, August 15, 2011, 19:31 By Metro Éireann

After a momentous few months of revolutions now termed the ‘Arab Spring’, the trial of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak on charges of conspiring to use deadly force against protestors in the January 2011 uprising finally began on 3 August.

The revolutions, largely manifested through non-violent resistance, ultimately overthrew Mubarak’s monarchical regime – a government long charged with suppressing any notion of Egyptian democracy.
Despite Mubarak’s long history of corruption and political abuses, the trial has shocked and surprised many around the world who never expected to see the former president go to court.
Since his election in 1981, Mubarak’s presidency – the second-longest in Egypt’s history – has represented a bastion of rigid dictatorial power both in the Middle East and internationally.
Many Cairo residents have also spoken publicly about the trial. “I am delighted to see that Mubarak and his sons have been brought to trial,” said Katherine Jones, who has lived in Egypt for 24 years who also participated in the protests, speaking to the BBC.
“The Mubarak regime was indelibly linked to corruption. I hope these hearings will not be used as a vehicle by the interim government to further their own interests, an easy distraction to placate the masses while army officials carve up and divide power for themselves.”
She added: "Most Egyptians, particularly those who lost friends and relatives in the protests, simply want to see Mubarak behind bars.”
Tens of millions of viewers tuned in live to watch the beginning of Mubarak’s trial. The 83-year-old, who is ailing in health, was rolled into court on a hospital bed and attached to a medical drip, but was still determined to “deny…completely” the numerous charges brought against him and his two sons, who are accused of corruption.
Mubarak’s presence at the trial held strong significance for the Egyptian people, who watched as he participated from behind a fenced cage typically reserved for dissidents or extremists.
For many, Mubarak’s limited presence symbolically confirmed the shifting nature of government in Middle Eastern countries traditionally run by military or dictatorial regimes.
Provoked by the uprising in Tunisia, which marked the first of the Arab Spring revolutions, the 18-day Egyptian revolt spurred similar political activity in Libya, Yemen, Bahrain, and Syria – all countries still battling out differences between rulers and the people.
At a time when the political future of many of these countries is unknown, the beginning of the trial marks what should be a tangible judicial outcome for at least one part of the Middle East.
Moreover, Mubarak’s official fall from power – a historic moment in the context of political revolution in the conflicted region –represents a sea change in existing international trends of inaccessible, power-abusing authoritarian leaders.
New York Times reporter Anthony Shahid, who has provided his newspaper’s primary coverage from the trial in Cairo, wrote that the first day’s events would be a harbinger for social and political change to come, “offering an indelible lesson for Egypt and the Arab world in the humbling of power”.
However, Husnu Mahalli of the Turkish centre-right daily Aksam criticised the trial. ”[It] was a total comedy,” he wrote. “It was completely ridiculous in terms of the place of the trial, the judges, prosecutors, solicitors of the defendants and plaintiffs, security precautions and lastly the television broadcasting techniques.”

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