Widow of Egyptian protester expects no solace from Mubarak verdict

 

McClatchy Newspapers

Soha Sayed has no delusions that Saturday’s expected verdict for deposed Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak will bring her any solace or her dead husband any justice. The days of rejoicing about democracy and justice have long passed, she said.

She watched every minute of the trial as the once-feared leader appeared in a court cage, as defendants do here, lying pitifully on a stretcher. She was moved once as he, his former minister of interior and six others were charged with killing protesters like her husband and injuring thousands of others during the uprising that ended the regime, specifically between Jan. 25 and Jan. 31, 2011.

Last week, she voted for Hamdeen Sabahi, branded by Egyptians as the revolutionary candidate, in Egypt’s first presidential election, only to learn that Mubarak’s last prime minister won a spot in next month’s runoff instead.

For Sayed, that marked the latest in a series of disappointments that have diluted hopes that once drove her and her husband to rise up a year ago. At stake in Mubarak’s verdict is not just the fate of the president but the state of a revolution that has been thrown into tumult after a series of losses. The election that some protesters died for led to a runoff between the two established factions here – the Muslim Brotherhood and a regime remnant. That Mubarak and his co-defendants also could be acquitted, or receive light sentences, raises fears among revolutionaries that their march in Tahrir Square already has seen its apex.

Mubarak’s fate rests in a court system he created over his 30-year rule, Sayed said. The top prosecutor was a Mubarak appointee, said Khalid Abu Bakr, a lead lawyer for the victims. And nearly 30 police commanders have been acquitted of the killing of protesters, leaving some to believe that if the courts could not convict them, then Mubarak will be acquitted as well.

Only five low-level police officers have been convicted so far. They were sentenced last week. Eleven others received suspended one-year sentences. One officer was convicted in absentia after fleeing from charges.

Many Egyptians believe Mubarak, 84, has suffered enough, saying the trial was gratuitous for an elder statesman who once was the face of the state. For them, his rule offered more stability than the revolutionaries.

Sayed, 43, said she struggles every day over whether her husband died in vain. That Mubarak’s last prime minister, Ahmed Shafik, could be the next president, democratically elected no less, only reaffirms her fears.

“If Shafik wins, he died for nothing,” she said and quietly wept before regaining her composure. “But I will keep fighting. I want the world to know what he died for.”

Sayed’s husband was an accidental revolutionary. She was the one who talked politics and kept the family glued to the images on television as Egyptians took to the streets. Her husband, Osama, 44, was never politically active, but the swelling crowds compelled him to leave home on Jan. 28, 2011, and head toward nearby Giza Square, one of many protest sites. He last called home at 5:30 p.m. According to hospital records, he arrived at 6 p.m. By 11 p.m., his body was in the morgue.

She would not learn his fate until the next morning when he didn’t come home and a stranger answered his cell phone. He had been shot, the man said, but don’t worry, he is OK. She and her three children rushed to the hospital and searched for hours before finally going to the morgue. He had been shot in the back, his liver ruptured. Pellet wounds covered the soles of his feet.

“They kept shooting him even after he was dead,” she said.

She followed the trial as closely as the nearly 200 attorneys who represented the victims against the defendants. The 10-month-long trial included more than 40,000 documents, according to the attorney Abu Bakr. Sayed has studied the evidence presented at trial and conceded the prosecution did not present a strong case. So do the attorneys. The case against Mubarak’s sons, Gamel and Alaa, is particularly weak, Abu Bakr said.

Both Mubarak and Habib al-Adly, his minister of interior, have denied issuing orders, calling the shootings the work of rogue state security services. The prosecution never proved that Mubarak or Adly ordered the killing of protesters. One of the victims' attorneys, Amir Salem, explained that it was difficult to obtain evidence from a police state.

“How can I get a record of what they said to each other?” Salem asked. “But they were the only ones under the constitution allowed to give such an order. They are responsible. The police acted on their own? Who gave them live ammunition?”

Sayed offers a simple argument for conviction: “The world saw what happened. No one could do anything in this country without Mubarak knowing.”

Mubarak and his co-defendants also face charges of accepting bribes and gifts from a developer for projects in Sharm el Sheikh, as well as a series of corruption charges. The prosecution, according to the victims’ lawyers, did a better job of proving those parts of their case against the regime. But Salim believes the state purposely gave the prosecution more evidence.

“Corruption is easier to prove, and they know we have to find Mubarak guilty of something,” Salim said.

Although the killing charges carry a maximum death penalty, Sayed expects Mubarak to receive a light sentence for financial crimes and that the case will be mired in appeals. She is also prepared for the judge to delay the verdict at the last minute amid heightened political tensions. The nation is bracing for violent protests in reaction to the verdict.

Sayed said that regardless of the outcome, she would keep fighting for the goals of the revolution. Salem, meanwhile, said he has decided that Saturday’s verdict does not matter anymore.

“For me we already got the verdict because he was in the cage,” Salem said. “For me, it’s done.”

McClatchy special correspondents Mohanned Sabry and Amina Ismail contributed to this article.

Email: nyoussef@mcclatchydc.com; Twitter: @nancyayoussef

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