Egyptian protesters have been venting their anger in Tahrir Square since former president Hosni Mubarak and former interior minister Habib El Adly were sentenced to life in prison Saturday.
Many Egyptians think Mubarak should have received the death penalty for his role in the deaths of demonstrators last year. They are also upset that six of his former aides were acquitted.
Samer Shehata, a professor of Egyptian and Arab politics at Georgetown University, talked to CNN about the reaction and what the verdicts might mean for the upcoming presidential runoff.
CNN: What does (this reaction) signal to you?
Shehata: Clearly, many millions of Egyptians are unhappy because they feel the sentencing was light, that this was not just. Remember, 846 people were killed during those 18 days. That was the figure produced by the official Egyptian committee that investigated the killings during the revolution. And 6,000 were injured.
(The protesters) feel that Mr. Mubarak, his minister of interior, and the six other high-ranking individuals were directly responsible for those deaths. … So they feel this was not justice and that the sentence should have been harsher.
CNN: Is it bittersweet that there was a court process that involved Hosni Mubarak, they wanted to see him brought to justice, but the outcome wasn't necessarily what a good majority of people were looking for?
Shehata: That's completely correct. Certainly no verdict, no ruling, would have satisfied all Egyptians. At the same time, people were, as you know, intensely fixated on the court proceedings. The idea that Mr. Mubarak, who had ruled the country for 29.5 years as an authoritarian dictator, really was in a cage — put on trial, held accountable — was something that was mesmerizing.
At the same time, you know, this shows us that the Egyptian revolution has not been completely successful. We know, for example, that the prosecutors did not have full cooperation from the Ministry of Interior that could have supplied more hard evidence as to what actually happened during those 18 days — whether orders were given or not, what the minister of interior said to Mr. Mubarak, and so on. There was reluctance to cooperate with the prosecution to defend their own. So clearly this also shows that not enough change has happened in Egypt in the 16 months since the revolution.
CNN: It also looks a bit half-glass empty, half-glass full because you've had democratic elections taking place. Now there will be a runoff election, and that involves one of the candidates who represents the Muslim Brotherhood. Might (these protests) interfere in any way with the runoff elections?
Shehata: Well, there's been a great deal of speculation how one particular verdict or another would impact the elections. If Mr. Mubarak was acquitted, there's no question that would have angered millions of Egyptians and that they would have more likely then voted in favor of the Muslim Brotherhood anti-regime figure (Mohamed Morsi).
This verdict is a kind of, as you said, “glass half full, glass half empty” situation. So the regime candidate (Ahmed Shafik), Mr. Mubarak's last prime minister … can say: “Look, the revolution has succeeded. Mr. Mubarak is now in jail for the rest of his life, and let's move on, and elect me as president.”
As I mentioned, I think many Egyptians — those who favored change, who decried corruption and authoritarianism — are unsatisfied with this verdict and are likely, I would think, to be skeptical at the very least about Ahmed Shafik.
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