A protester holds a poster calling for the trial of Hosni Mubarak during a demonstration earlier this month in Cairo's Tahrir Square. Khaled Desouki / AFP
A protester holds a poster calling for the trial of Hosni Mubarak during a demonstration earlier this month in Cairo's Tahrir Square. Khaled Desouki / AFP

Egyptians determined to see Mubaraks are punished

Three months after Hosni Mubarak's stunning fall from power, many Egyptians want to see him and his family put away for the rest of their lives. Some even want the 83-year-old Mubarak and his son and one-time heir apparent Gamal hanged.

The popular thirst for the Mubaraks to be severely punished for what is perceived to be a long list of crimes over nearly 30 years has grown since he stepped down on February 11. It could well be the result of the continuous leaks to the media about the massive wealth they allegedly amassed through illegitimate means when nearly half of all Egyptians lived on US$2 (Dh7.34) a day.

As things stand now, Mr Mubarak is under arrest at a hospital in Sharm el-Sheikh, where he spent much of the past 10 to 15 years of his rule.

On Tuesday, Egypt's attorney general said that Mr Mubarak would face trial on charges related to the the deaths of more than 800 protesters during the uprising. His security boss, former interior minister Habib el Adly, faces the same charges. If the two men are convicted, they could face the death sentence.

Separately, Mr Mubarak, his two sons and a close business associate have been charged with abusing their power to amass wealth. No date has been set for their trial.

Mr Mubarak's wife, Suzanne, who exercised considerable behind-the-scenes influence on how the country was run, is facing corruption allegations, too. She was released from custody last week after she relinquished to the state assets worth 24 million Egyptian pounds (Dh14.8m). She remains under investigation for illegally amassing wealth.

The 70-year-old former first lady is at the same hospital as her husband and reportedly is ill.

The Mubarak brothers are at Torah prison south of Cairo along with about two dozen or more stalwarts of their father's regime, including a former prime minister, the speakers of parliament's two chambers, a close Mubarak aide and several former cabinet ministers and regime-linked politicians and businessmen.

The revolutionary fervour that is still in evidence here, plus the stream of sensational and weakly attributed media reports on the alleged crimes of the Mubaraks, are likely to translate into revolutionary justice for the former leader and his family.

That justice would probably involve proper trials but also verdicts that pander to popular sentiments, including those harboured by many Egyptians who view the Mubarak years as the cause of their poverty and lack of economic opportunity.

It seems unlikely that Egypt will establish a South African-style, truth-and-reconciliation commission to ease the bitterness and thirst for revenge in the country.

The question of justice for Mr Mubarak and his family arose in recent days after media reports raised the possibility that the Mubaraks could be pardoned if they returned the assets they had stolen.

The prospect of a pardon prompted the military to swiftly deny its intention to do so, saying that the generals would not interfere with the judiciary. But the denial did not prevent some youth groups warning of a "second revolution" if the Mubaraks were pardoned.

Opposition to a possible pardon has also been stated by several political parties, including the Muslim Brotherhood.

The speculation intensified when unconfirmed reports said Mr Mubarak intended to issue an apology to the Egyptian people. But a legal source was quoted by Cairo newspapers as denying Mr Mubarak had any intention of doing so because that would be tantamount to a confession of crimes.

Mr Mubarak's poor health has been cited for his continuous stay in a luxurious wing of the resort hospital rather than a prison hospital in Cairo. There also have been conflicting reports about just how sick he is, with some reports saying he is suffering from depression and a heart condition.

Mr Mubarak underwent surgery in Germany last year to remove a gall bladder and his health has been the subject of intense speculation since.

Suzanne Mubarak's few days in detention were also spent at the Sharm el-Sheikh hospital, with her reported poor health preventing her transfer to the women's hospital at Qanater, north of Cairo.

But the perceived leniency towards Mr Mubarak and his wife may in large part be the result of the military's worry that the pair are so frail they could die if they were treated poorly. However, some fear, the leniency could be subtle recognition that it was Mr Mubarak's patronage that helped today's rulers achieve their career success.

The possibility of the Mubaraks getting off the hook with either an apology or giving up wealth may well be far-fetched in a nation where the street, at least for now, rules supreme. But the young men and women who engineered the fall of a regime thought to be invincible just a few months ago are not about to take any chances.

Last Friday, thousands demonstrated in Cairo and Alexandria to demand that the Mubaraks and others be tried and punished if convicted, even if they return the wealth they are accused to stealing.

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