Robert Fisk writes:
Just when the Arab dictators desperately need to drink the secure, cool waters of an Arab summer, along came the Egyptians yesterday to poison the well. Deep into its depths, those dictators could see a flickering enmeshed face, fragile, fingers playing over its nose and mouth, the arm of a man on a stretcher raised to prevent the light getting too close but – for just a few brief moments – with the same old arrogant eyes. Then the heavy black mike appeared in the man’s left hand. “I am here, your honour,” said a chillingly strong voice. “I have not committed any such crimes.”
Yes, the Egyptians really did put their wretched, ancient dictator on trial yesterday, along with his effete, sullen sons – both dressed in white as if heading for yet another summer tennis party, an illusion broken only by the green Koran under Alaa Mubarak’s arm. An encouragement to his dessicated, 83-year-old father, Hosni? Or an insult to the dead?
The lawyers screamed their clients’ pain; of torture, of snipers, of the murder of Egypt’s own people in the January-February uprising, of the brutality of the security forces, of corruption on a Mafia scale. And to whom else did these terrible charges apply? We thought about Damascus, of course. And Tripoli. And the Bahraini capital of Manama. And of Rabat and Amman and Algiers and Riyadh…
And across the vast, arid wastelands of the Arab despots, the government televisions continued to show game shows and cooking classes and domestic dramas and friendly crowds, all of whom loved their presidents and kings and potentates, who could never – could they? – be accused of these awful crimes. Outside Egypt itself, the only live coverage of the trial was broadcast by post-revolutionary Tunisia and that nemesis of the Mubarak regime and of the United States and of Israel: the Hezbollah’s Al-Manar television.
“Are you Mohamed Hosni Sayed Mubarak?” asked Judge Ahmed Refaat. Or Bachar al-Assad? Or Muammar Gaddafi? Or His Majesty King Hamad? Or even His Highness King Abdullah, Guardian of the Three Holy Places in a place called Saudi Arabia?