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Egypt’s Innocent Murderers

CAIRO – “Bashar should abandon power and retire safely in Egypt. The general-prosecutor is murder-friendly,” a friend, referring to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, told me as we watched former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s trial in the Police Academy’s criminal court. Although Mubarak and his interior (security) minister, Habib al-Adly, were handed life sentences at the conclusion of their trials, the generals who ran Egypt’s apparatus of repression as deputy interior ministers were acquitted.

Hasan Abd al-Rahman, head of the notorious, Stasi-like State Security Investigations (SSI); Ahmad Ramzi, head of the Central Security Forces (CSF); Adly Fayyid, the head of Public Security; Ismail al-Shaer, who led the Cairo Security Directorate (CSD); Osama Youssef, the head of the Giza Security Directorate; and Omar Faramawy, who oversaw of the 6th of October Security Directorate, were all cleared of any wrongdoing. Lawyers for Mubarak and al-Adly will appeal their life-sentences, and many Egyptians believe that they will receive lighter sentences.

The verdicts sent an unmistakable message, one with serious consequences for Egypt’s political transition. A spontaneous cry was heard from the lawyers and the families of victims when they were announced: “The people want to cleanse the judiciary.”

Indeed, many Egyptians – including senior judges – do not view the judiciary as an independent institution. “This is a major professional mistake. Those generals should have been handed life-sentences like Mubarak,” said Zakaria Abd al-Aziz, the former elected head of the Judges Club. “The killing went on for days, and they did not order anyone to stop it. The Ministry of Interior (MOI) is not the only place that should be cleansed. The judiciary needs that” as well.