By Sarah El Deeb / AP
CAIRO: Egypt’s former President Hosni Mubarak told the court trying him for complicity in the killing of protesters during last year’s uprising that he was saddened by what he called “baseless” claims against him and expressed confidence in the judicial system and history to clear his name.
Mubarak’s remarks were made in a memo published in the Tahrir newspaper on Thursday, a day after the former president’s defense lawyers delivered their closing remarks in a seven-month trial that has transfixed the nation.
Lawyers confirmed Mubarak had presented a letter to the court, but did not know its contents. One lawyer, Adel Mekki, who represents families of protesters killed said the note presented was longer than the one published in Tahrir. Mubarak’s lawyer was out of the country and was not available for comment.
In the letter, which filled three columns on the daily’s front page, Mubarak, 83, struck a defiant tone, speaking in the third person and telling the court he has worked to defend his nation’s honor and his people’s blood.
“The unjust accusations and the baseless allegations I am facing sadden me. I am not someone who would shed his people’s blood. I have spent my life defending them. Hosni Mubarak is not someone to smear his military honor with ill-gotten wealth,” the published letter said.
He is charged with complicity in the killing of nearly 900 protesters in the uprising that forced him out of office last year. If convicted, Mubarak could face the death penalty by hanging. Five of the former president’s top security officials face the same charges.
Mubarak, his two sons and a business associate face corruption charges in a separate case.
In the memo, the former president said the demonstrators had “legitimate” demands, but accused them of provoking and attacking security forces. He also voiced confidence that Egyptians would exonerate him, and called on them to ignore those who he said were receiving foreign funds to sow sedition in Egypt.
Mubarak’s regime accused foreigners of fomenting unrest when he was still in office, and the military rulers who took power after his fall have leveled the same allegations at some of those protesting against military rule.
“Despite everything, I am totally confident in the fairness and justice of the Egyptian judiciary. I am totally confident in history’s judgment, and totally confident in the great Egyptian people’s judgment — free from the allegations of the tendentious and those seeking to sow sedition, and those receiving foreign funding.”
Khaled Abou Bakr, another lawyer representing families of slain protesters, said Mubarak’s letter is directed more at public opinion than at the court.
The former president declined to speak to the court in the closing arguments — an understandable decision, said Abou Bakr.
“Mubarak wants people to hear him. Lawyers won’t let him speak, and will get rowdy, interrupt him and could humiliate him,” Abou Bakr said.
Mubarak ended his memo with a famous line from an Arab poem, which appeared to an attempt to win sympathy from his readers and appeal to a well-respected Arab tradition.
“My country is dear even if it is unjust to me. My people are honorable even if they were unfair to me,” he wrote.
Mubarak’s first appearance in court on Aug. 3, lying down on a gurney behind bars, was a sign for many of the end of an era. It was also the first trial of an Arab leader by his own people, and was celebrated as the beginning of the end of decades of impunity for officials accused of torture, corruption and abuse.
But the trial has dragged on, and after first being televised, was ordered off the air for alleged national security reasons.
It also became clear to many that the case against Mubarak and his senior security aides was weak, prompting many to view it as a little more than a political play which was only forced upon the country’s military rulers because of persistent protests calling for retribution.
Lawyer Mohamed El-Damaty, one of the many representing the families of those killed in the protests, said the judicial system is incapable of dealing with such a complicated trial, particularly during a transitional period, when the burden of proof rests in the hands of authorities that he said were still loyal to Mubarak. He said a special court should have been set up to try Mubarak and his aides.
He said Mubarak’s memo to the court suggested that he still believes he is Egypt’s president.
“It is hard to believe that after being on top of the world, you are now at the bottom,” he said. “The letter is as if he is still in the pre-uprising era.”