Cairo – If the life sentences for former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak and one of his key allies were meant to placate Egyptians, they have had the opposite effect.
Shortly after the verdict, tens of thousands of Egyptians from across the politcal spectrum, with perhaps the exception of die-hard Mubarak supporters and supporters of presidential candidate and former Mubarak cabinet member Ahmed Shafik, filled the streets of Egyptian cities to voice their anger at the verdicts.
Northern cairo criminal court Judge Ahmed Refaat convicted Mubarak and Habib Al-Adly, the former head of Egypt’s interior ministry (MOI) merely of “failing to stop the killings.” Many Egyptians believe Mubarak and Al-Adly together with the state’s security services, were responsible for the killing of hundreds of protestors and the torture and detention of thousands more political detainees.
Senior members of the MOI, and commanders of the riot police who were seen firing on protestors from the tops of buildings surrounding Tahrir Square, were acquitted.
“We know that Mubarak and Al-Adly were not on the rooftops firing at protestors, yet somehow nobody is to blame for the shootings and killings despite forensic medical reports, witnesses, video footage and security log book evidence,” protest organiser Tarek El Halaby told IPS.
Within minutes of Saturday morning’s verdicts, clashes between protestors and riot police broke out near the court. Hundreds of Egyptians began filling downtown Cairo’sTahrir Square spontaneously, despite the blistering heat of the midday sun. By nightfall those hundreds had swelled into tens of thousands of chanting protestors, a scene repeated in cities and towns around Egypt.
This was the biggest turnout of protestors since the revolution. In scenes reminiscent of those heady and eventful days, young men began barricading Tahrir Square. All pedestrians who entered were searched and forced to show ID proof by revolutionary volunteers.
Protestors formed a human chain around Tahrir with secularists, Islamists, revolutionaries, football fans, Coptic Christians, young and old uniting in a show of solidarity. Many women were among the protesters.
The protests continued throughout the night, with hundreds settling in for what many see as a long battle ahead. Sunday morning traffic was again blocked by barricades as waves of protestors returned following a call by the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) to its well organised supporters to take to the streets.
The mood on the streets is one of anger but also of defiance and determination, with the realisation that the revolution Egyptians have fought so hard for, and many have died for, could be slipping away.
“If we can keep this momentum until Jun. 6, and focus our message, we might succeed in getting Shafik disqualified. Step one,” said protestor Yasmine El-Rashidi.
This attitude of defiance is being echoed by other protestors who have called for a complete boycott of the run-off election due in mid-June. “The overwhelming majority of the Egyptian population will not take part in the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces’ (SCAF) elections. Join us and boycott this farce,” twittered activist Tarek Shalaby.
Another activist, Mahmoud Salem, expressed disappointment over the revolution’s shortcomings and the inability of some revolutionaries to see through the game of the military to cling to power.
El-Halaby who lost several of his friends in a protest outside Abbasiya military headquarters in Cairo last month sees a bloody road ahead. Eleven people were killed in that protest. Several had their throats slit and others were gunned down by unidentified assailants believed to be associated with the military.
“We know the former regime will not give up without a bloody fight and we expect more bloodshed in the future. We know are prepared for this because we know our freedom will not come easily,” El-Halaby told IPS.
The explosive situation in the street and anger of the protestors is expected to escalate when an appeal by Mubarak and Al-Adly’s lawyers against their life sentences is filed. Many Egyptians, including lawyers for those killed in Tahrir last year as well as Mubarak and Adly’s lawyers believe the appeal will be successful.
But despite events signalling that Egypt’s revolution is far from over, Egyptians haven’t lost their sense of humour. A current joke circulating in Tahrir Square is that Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad would happily give up power if he could be tried in an Egyptian court.