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

Photo: Getty
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Amber Rudd's ignorance isn't just a problem for the laws she writes

Politicians' lack of understanding leads to the wrong laws - and leaves real problems unchecked. 

Amber Rudd’s interview with Andrew Marr yesterday is not going to feature in her highlights reel, that is for certain. Her headline-grabbing howler was her suggesting was that to fight terror “the best people…who understand the necessary hashtags” would stop extremist material “ever being put up, not just taken down”, but the entire performance was riddled with poorly-briefed errors.

During one particularly mystifying exchange, Rudd claimed that she wasn’t asking for permission to “go into the Cloud”, when she is, in fact, asking for permission to go into the Cloud.

That lack of understanding makes itself felt in the misguided attempt to force tech companies to install a backdoor in encrypted communications. I outline some of the problems with that approach here, and Paul Goodman puts it well over at ConservativeHome, the problem with creating a backdoor is that “the security services would indeed be able to travel down it.  So, however, might others – the agencies serving the Chinese and Russian governments, for example, not to mention non-state hackers and criminals”.

But it’s not just in what the government does that makes ministers’ lack of understanding of tech issues a problem. As I’ve written before, there is a problem where hate speech is allowed to flourish freely on new media platforms. After-the-fact enforcement means that jihadist terrorism and white supremacist content can attract a large audience on YouTube and Facebook before it is taken down, while Twitter is notoriously sluggish about removing abuse and hosts a large number of extremists on its site. At time of writing, David Duke, the former head of the Ku Klux Klan, has free use of YouTube to post videos with titles such as “CNN interview on Bannon exposes Jewish bias”, “Will the white race survive?” and “Stop the genocide of European mankind”. It’s somewhat odd, to put it mildly, that WhatsApp is facing more heat for a service that is enjoyed by and protects millions of honest consumers while new media is allowed to be intensely relaxed about hosting hate speech.

Outside of the field of anti-terror, technological illiteracy means that old-fashioned exploitation becomes innovative “disruption” provided it is facilitated by an app. Government and opposition politicians simultaneously decry old businesses’ use of zero-hours contracts and abuse of self-employment status to secure the benefits of a full-time employee without having to bear the costs, while hailing and facilitating the same behaviour provided the company in question was founded after 2007.

As funny as Rudd’s ill-briefed turn on the BBC was, the consequences are anything but funny. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.