Mubarak on trial

Remarkable footage of the former Egyptian president being stretchered into the defendants’ cage.

 

 

Amid chaotic scenes both inside and outside the courtroom, Hosni Mubarak was today in court to face charges of economic corruption, illegal business dealings and the unlawful killing of pro-democracy protesters.

The once-powerful dictator was stretchered into the defendants' cage dressed in white prison overalls. Anyone would be forgiven for not immediately recognising this pathetic figure as the same man who once inspired terror in the hearts of so many Egyptians.

The 83-year-old remained almost entirely silent throughout, speaking once only to confirm his name and make his plea:

I deny all these charges and accusations categorically.

Mubarak's sons and co-defendants - Alaa and Gamal - also pled innocent.

The last time Mubarak appeared on live television was in February, when he refused to resign his post. Less than six months later, the toppled leader potentially faces the death penalty if found guilty of the crimes of which he is accused.

Outside the courthouse, many watched the trial on television at home or huddled around giant public screens. Street fights broke out between rival demonstrators with 53 reported injured, despite the presence of thousands of soldiers and riot police. Egypt's political uncertainties, compounded by Mubarak's trial, have now seen the country's shares drop to a two-month low.

Mubarak's trial has been adjourned until 15 August. Meanwhile, former interior minister Habib el-Adly's resumes tomorrow. Along with six senior police deputies, el-Adly faces charges similar to those of Mubarak.

For many, this trial represents a significant stage in an ongoing battle to improve Egypt's human rights situation. Amnesty International's director for the Middle East and north Africa Malcolm Smart said:

This trial presents a historic opportunity for Egypt to hold a former leader and his inner-circle to account for crimes committed during their rule.

 

Tess Riley is a freelance journalist and social justice campaigner. She also works, part time, for Streetbank, and can be found on Twitter at @tess_riley

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Voters are turning against Brexit but the Lib Dems aren't benefiting

Labour's pro-Brexit stance is not preventing it from winning the support of Remainers. Will that change?

More than a year after the UK voted for Brexit, there has been little sign of buyer's remorse. The public, including around a third of Remainers, are largely of the view that the government should "get on with it".

But as real wages are squeezed (owing to the Brexit-linked inflationary spike) there are tentative signs that the mood is changing. In the event of a second referendum, an Opinium/Observer poll found, 47 per cent would vote Remain, compared to 44 per cent for Leave. Support for a repeat vote is also increasing. Forty one per cent of the public now favour a second referendum (with 48 per cent opposed), compared to 33 per cent last December. 

The Liberal Democrats have made halting Brexit their raison d'être. But as public opinion turns, there is no sign they are benefiting. Since the election, Vince Cable's party has yet to exceed single figures in the polls, scoring a lowly 6 per cent in the Opinium survey (down from 7.4 per cent at the election). 

What accounts for this disparity? After their near-extinction in 2015, the Lib Dems remain either toxic or irrelevant to many voters. Labour, by contrast, despite its pro-Brexit stance, has hoovered up Remainers (55 per cent back Jeremy Corbyn's party). 

In some cases, this reflects voters' other priorities. Remainers are prepared to support Labour on account of the party's stances on austerity, housing and education. Corbyn, meanwhile, is a eurosceptic whose internationalism and pro-migration reputation endear him to EU supporters. Other Remainers rewarded Labour MPs who voted against Article 50, rebelling against the leadership's stance. 

But the trend also partly reflects ignorance. By saying little on the subject of Brexit, Corbyn and Labour allowed Remainers to assume the best. Though there is little evidence that voters will abandon Corbyn over his EU stance, the potential exists.

For this reason, the proposal of a new party will continue to recur. By challenging Labour over Brexit, without the toxicity of Lib Dems, it would sharpen the choice before voters. Though it would not win an election, a new party could force Corbyn to soften his stance on Brexit or to offer a second referendum (mirroring Ukip's effect on the Conservatives).

The greatest problem for the project is that it lacks support where it counts: among MPs. For reasons of tribalism and strategy, there is no emergent "Gang of Four" ready to helm a new party. In the absence of a new convulsion, the UK may turn against Brexit without the anti-Brexiteers benefiting. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.