. Mubarak stepped down from power voluntarily. Would he have done so had he known that the new regime would put him on trial for the acts he took as president to preserve his rule? Of course not, he would have fought to the end. All leaders of Muslim countries have corrupt deals for personal gain and use force against people who threaten their regime. Putting on trial a former leader who voluntarily gave up his power assures that no Muslim leader in the future will ever voluntarily give up his power. Power will never change hands except when the former power possessor’s cold dead hands are pried from it.
Muslim self-government under the rule of law, a.k.a. democracy, was never really possible, notwithstanding the widely shared dream that it was. But this vengeful act by the Egyptians against their former leader puts even the dream of Muslim self-government in the trash can.
Egypt Is Moving to Try Mubarak in Fatal Protests
CAIRO—Former President Hosni Mubarak will be put on trial for conspiring to kill unarmed protesters, Egypt’s top prosecutor announced Tuesday, yielding to public demands for accountability and setting an example that could rattle autocrats around the region.
The charge could incur the death penalty. Mr. Mubarak was also accused of obtaining his seaside mansion in Sharm el Sheik as a kickback from a friend for a corrupt land deal, and prosecutors accused his two sons, Gamal and Alaa, of receiving a total of four other villas there as part of the same kickback. And in a third charge, prosecutors said the former president allowed the same friend to siphon $714 million in public money out of a deal to sell natural gas to Israel.
The charges—brought by prosecutors Mr. Mubarak had appointed—included hints that former subordinates might testify against him, as onetime allies and government insiders turn on one another.
A Cairo criminal court is expected to set a trial date within days, and the Egyptian people could soon see the leader whose iron fist ruled them for nearly three decades seated in the steel cage that serves as a docket in Egyptian courtrooms.
Alarmed by the calls for Mr. Mubarak’s prosecution, the Saudi royal family has for weeks urged Egypt’s current military rulers to avoid harsh treatment, fearing that it could intensify unrest in the region, according to Saudi officials and a Western diplomat. Some argue that watching Mr. Mubarak endure the humiliation of a criminal trial and potential conviction could harden the resolve of embattled leaders like Bashar al-Assad of Syria and Ali Abdullah Saleh of Yemen to hang on to power at any cost.
But organizers of the Tahrir Square demonstrations that ousted Mr. Mubarak have called for a new protest Friday to urge, among other things, swifter prosecution of the former president. Some argued that the military council was capitulating.
“It is a reaction,” said Islam Lotfy, a leader of the youth wing of the Muslim Brotherhood.
The military council, led by Mr. Mubarak’s former defense minister, is now running the country, and the charges against Mr. Mubarak are the strongest indication yet that Egyptian officials are moving to distance themselves from their former leaders even before the parliamentary elections expected this fall. The charges accused Mr. Mubarak of killing protesters “by agreeing with Habib el-Adly, the former interior minister, and some police leaders,” suggesting that some may even have testified against the former president.
Mr. Adly, deeply despised and once widely feared, has already been sentenced to 12 years in prison for corruption and awaits trial on a second charge of directing the killing of civilians. Adel el-Said, a spokesman for the prosecutor, declined to comment, except to say that no interior minister could have ordered the killing of unarmed civilians without the president’s consent.
About 850 people died, many from police bullets, during the 18 days of demonstrations that brought down Mr. Mubarak, according to Egyptian officials.
Mr. Mubarak is charged with conspiring “with premeditation” to kill “peaceful” demonstrators, and also with “inciting some officers and members of the police to fire their weapons at the victims, shoot them and run over them with vehicles, and to kill some of them in order to terrorize the rest and force them to relinquish their demands.”
The corruption charges evidently date back many years and involve Hussein Salem, a billionaire landowner and ally of Mr. Mubarak. Mr. Salem, who is also charged with corruption, left Egypt before he was implicated in any wrongdoing. An Interpol arrest warrant has reportedly been issued.
The first corruption charge relates to a large tract of prime land on the Red Sea coast of the South Sinai area, around Sharm el Sheik. Prosecutors charge that Mr. Mubarak exploited his influence to allow Mr. Salem to buy at a deeply discounted price from the Egyptian government in a privatization deal. In return Mr. Salem provided the Mubaraks with a five luxury villas—four for the two sons worth 14 million Egyptian pounds, or about $2.4 million, and a 161,000-square-foot mansion for Mr. Mubarak worth roughly $4.5 million.
The second corruption charge concerns a separate deal for the sale of natural gas to Israel that has been the subject of rumors and suspicions here for years. In this case, prosecutors charge, Mr. Mubarak enabled a middleman company in which Mr. Salem owned a large stake to buy natural gas from the Egyptian government below market price. Mr. Salem’s company may have then resold the gas to Israel at a substantial mark-up, thus enriching himself at the public expense, although the prosecutors’ statement is unclear on those details.
The deal cheated Egypt of $714 million in lost revenue, prosecutors say, but Mr. Salem himself made far more than that. After his company’s role in the gas deal became known, he sold his stake for a profit of $2 billion. The charges did not address Mr. Mubarak’s interest in the deal, other than in helping enrich a friend.
Until now, Mr. Mubarak has been under indefinite detention while recovering from a heart attack in a hospital near his Sharm el Sheik home. The prosecutors said Tuesday that a medical team was examining Mr. Mubarak this week to see if he was fit for transfer to a Cairo prison. His sons and more than a dozen former associates are already waiting behind bars in a prison that had housed political dissidents during the Mubarak era.
The organizers of the Tahrir Square demonstrations have called their planned protest this Friday “the Second Egyptian Revolution” or “the Revolution Part II,” to reiterate a long list of unmet demands, including the prosecution of Mr. Mubarak but also an end to military trials and postponing planned parliamentary elections to give new parties more time to organize.
“The military is trying to give us something to abort what is going to happen on Friday,” Shedy el-Ghazaly Harb, one of the organizers, said. “O.K., it is not a bad step,” he added, “but not good enough to stop us from challenging them about how they are running the country.”