The man who was Hosni Mubarak’s Vice President and Egypt’s top spy is telling prosecutors that the aging dictator was aware that his security services were firing at peaceful protestors during the January 25 uprisings in Tahrir Square and elsewhere.
Testimony by Omar Suleiman could constitute key evidence against Mubarak, who will be tried for murder in the deaths of anti-government activists. Suleiman, a longtime Mubarak confidante, was appointed vice president in the waning days of the Mubarak regime and helped orchestrate the president’s resignation.
Before being named vice president, Suleiman, an army general, served as Egypt’s intelligence chief, and was reported to have been his country’s “point man” in the program of extraordinary rendition carried out during the Bush-Cheney administration. Torture victims and human rights groups charged that Suleiman oversaw the systematic use of torture on detainees and that in at least one instance he personally tortured a detainee during his career in intelligence.
Suleiman testified that Mubarak received hourly updates about the tactics used by the officers of the Ministry of Interior to disperse protesters and approved their brutal actions.
More than 864 people were killed and 6,467 wounded in the Egyptian revolution. Mubarak, who ruled Egypt with an iron fist for more than 30 years, faces a potential death sentence if found guilty. Habib El-Adly, Mubarak’s interior minister, and dozens of police, are also being tried for murder.
The Egyptian press is reporting that the prosecution’s investigation revealed that Mubarak cooperated with El-Adly and senior police officials to deliberately kill protesters, by ordering officers to shoot them and run them over with their vehicles.
Mubarak is also accused of a number of other serious crimes, including facilitating businessman Hussein Salem’s acquisition of 40 billion Egyptian pounds by facilitating a natural gas deal with Israel at low prices. The Military Prosecution will also be questioning him in connection with arms deals and issues related to “the interests and secrets of the armed forces.”
“Mubarak should be prosecuted for high treason since he violated the presidential oath of office … committing several crimes against his people … for 30 years,” law professor Salah Sadek argued, expressing doubts over the seriousness of the trial.
“Had there been a serious intention to take Mubarak to court, he should have faced trial right after he stepped down on Feb. 11 … as all his crimes were exposed after the revolution erupted,” he added.
According to the Daily News Egypt, Sadek accused the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), which has been running the country since Mubarak stepped down, of procrastination in enforcing the law against him.
“It should not take all this time to investigate the charges against him. For long he remained under house arrest inside a palace in Sharm El-Sheikh resort,” Sadek said.
On April 10, the prosecutor general summoned Mubarak and his two sons Alaa and Gamal for interrogation over the above charges, previously denied by the former president.
Alaa and Gamal were taken to Cairo’s Tora prison, while Mubarak remained in custody at Sharm El-Sheikh hospital until his medical state stabilizes.
Since then, Mubarak’s detention was renewed three times, 15 days each, which stirred the angry reactions of activists and political forces who accused the SCAF of being lenient with Mubarak.
“If anybody else faced similar accusations, there would be no place for him other than jail,” Sadek said.
The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) welcomed what it described as a “conclusive step towards penalizing the members of the former regime for their crimes against the people and the revolutionists.”
In a statement, ANHRI called on the prosecutor general and the justice minister to allow human rights groups to follow up on the trial and allow people to witness the hearings.
Amnesty International called on authorities on Tuesday to prosecute all of those responsible for the killings and torture of protesters, including the military.
“That Mr. Mubarak and his sons are to stand trial is a very welcome step … [but] the families of those killed during protest violence have a right to justice as do all those who were seriously injured or subjected to arbitrary detention or torture, including at the hands of the military,” the statement read.
But the Arab Center for the Independence of Judiciary and the Legal Profession (ACIJLP) demanded that Mubarak and others charged with violations committed at the time of the overthrown regime would be granted fair trials. The center called for serving justice and ignoring any other considerations or revenge motives.
“Despite its utmost importance, this [legal] step was taken relatively late, which raised doubts over the possibility of referring the ex-president to court,” ACIJLP said, also expressing relief over the prosecutor’s decision.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) has arrested four activists for handing out flyers advertising Friday’s (May 27) demonstrations. A graffiti artist, a film director, a musician, and a member of the April 6 Youth Movement, have been held for questioning regarding hanging posters advertising the protests and passing out pamphlets promoting the “Second Rage of Revolution.”
The Project for Middle East Democracy (POMED) reports that large numbers of Egyptians protested across the country today (May 27) to demand that the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) accelerate the political reform process, as well as that Mubarak regime figures be tried. Some demonstrators have called the protests a “second revolution.”
The not-for-profit research group reported, “As a sign of unity and tolerance, Muslims and Christians reportedly took turns praying in Tahrir Square. Thousands of protestors have also emerged in Alexandria, Sharm el-Sheikh, Suez, Port Said, Luxor, and Aswan demanding the elimination of municipal councils controlled by members of the former National Democratic Party and the transfer of Mubarak to Tora prison in Cairo. Stages have been constructed in Tahrir Square, where prominent individuals such as Amr Hamzawy, Osama Ghazali Harb, Ehab El Khazarat, Ziad El Elimy, and Esraa Abdel Fatah were expected to speak. So far, the military has not had a strong presence at the demonstrations, perhaps fearing that its presence would incite violence.”
The Muslim Brotherhood had actively campaigned against Friday’s demonstrations, are to urge the Egyptian authorities to enforce justice and put the former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak on trial on charges of conspiring to kill protesters and corruption.
The Muslim Brotherhood, which is relatively well organized and has a substantial political following, is charging that these demonstrations are “either a demonstration against the people and the will of the majority, or a conspiracy to incite friction between the people and the High Council of the Armed Forces.”
The protests were also to call on the ruling High Council of the Armed Forces to lift the emergency law, which it promised to do in September 2011.
Gamal Eid, president of ANHRI stated “The Muslim Brotherhood response to the calls for peaceful demonstrations are not surprising. We have seen during the previous months some leading figures in this group inciting hatred, and yesterday the group released an official statement strongly inciting in it against these demonstrations and those who call for them as if the former notorious National Democratic Party is still active fighting freedom and democracy but under a new name “Muslim Brotherhood”.
Meanwhile, Reporters Without Borders (RWB) challenged leaders in Bahrain and Yemen to release journalists who have been arbitrarily arrested, tried in Kangaroo courts, and given long jail sentences. It said there were at least a dozen reporters and photographers being held by Bahraini authorities.
RWB reported that, in the past few days, the authorities have arrested more photographers and photo-journalists who had been covering the pro-democracy demonstrations that have taken place in Bahrain since mid-February. The group said the aim of these targeted arrests is to limit the dissemination of news reports, photos and video of the protests and the government crackdown.
“Reporters Without Borders calls for the immediate release of these photographers and of all the other people who have been arrested for circulating information about the protests and repression,” the organization said.
The organization also said that the Yemeni authorities continue to violate media freedom. “In the one of the latest cases, three government thugs known as baltagiyas attacked the Sanaa headquarters of the independent daily Al-Oula at dawn on 21 May, stabbing Hassan Sayeed, an employee. He was reported to be in a serious condition after being hospitalized.”
Deliveries of thousands of copies of local newspapers were also interrupted and the newspapers confiscated.
A journalist working for the independent NewsYemen site, was attacked by security forces while covering a sit-in by employees of the Yemeni oil company in the southern province of Taiz on 16 May. Deputy provincial security chief Mohamed Al-Shami hurled Adib’s camera to the ground and stamped on it. After being held with detained demonstrators for an hour, Adib managed to escape.
Another journalist working for the newspaper Al-Thawra, was threatened on 16 May with being killed or having his tongue cut out.
Yet a third journalist, based in the governorate of Hadramaout, who helps edit the Syon Press website and reports for the newspaper Al-Nada and the news website NewsYemen, was detained for several hours on 15 May as a result of a complaint by the head of a reconstruction fund that was created after heavy flooding in 2008 in Hadramaout and Al-Mahrah. An article by this journalist headlined “The true disaster” claimed that reconstruction money had been embezzled.
William Fisher, a regular contributor to The Public Record, has managed economic development programs for the U.S. State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development in the Middle East, Latin America and elsewhere for the past 25 years. He has supervised major multi-year projects for AID in Egypt, where he lived and worked for three years. He returned later with his team to design Egypt’s agricultural strategy. Fisher served in the administration of President John F. Kennedy. He reports on a wide-range of issues for numerous domestic and international newspapers and online journals. He blogs at The World According to Bill Fisher.