0

Mubarak trial gets mixed feelings

The Associated Press. This image taken from Egyptian State Television shows 83-year-old former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak speaking to the court, using a microphone while lying on a hospital bed inside a cage of mesh and iron bars in a Cairo courtroom Wednesday,  as his historic trial began on charges of corruption and ordering the killing of protesters during the uprising that ousted him from office.

The Associated Press. This image taken from Egyptian State Television shows 83-year-old former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak speaking to the court, using a microphone while lying on a hospital bed inside a cage of mesh and iron bars in a Cairo courtroom Wednesday, as his historic trial began on charges of corruption and ordering the killing of protesters during the uprising that ousted him from office.

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates -- The live TV images of a caged and bedridden Hosni Mubarak being held to account for alleged crimes against his own people -- by his own people -- captivated viewers across the Middle East and appeared to many to be a powerful turning point in this year's uprisings.

Some hoped the trial, which began Wednesday in Cairo, would be the first of several bringing longtime autocrats to justice. Others weren't quite sure what to make of the spectacle, torn between a desire for justice and the discomfort of seeing a once-all-powerful Arab leader treated like a common criminal.

For many others from North Africa to the Persian Gulf, the trial carried a deeper meaning. It was, in the words of pastry shop owner Saif Mahmoud in Baghdad, a rewriting of the rules between the region's people and their leaders. That's because unlike Iraq's Saddam Hussein, who was captured by American forces, Mubarak was brought to court by his own people.

In the West Bank city of Ramallah, 29-year-old Palestinian Salah Abu Samera saw emerging democracy.

''It's unusual in the Arab world,'' he said. ''This is the first time we see a leader in a real court. This is good for democracy, good for the future. We've always heard of leaders on trial in Israel, in Turkey, in the U.S., or Europe. But this is the first time in the Arab world.''

Another Palestinian, retiree Mohammed Adnan, 64, described Mubarak's trial as a ''huge move'' for the region. He said the longtime Egyptian strongman never would have treated his people as he did had he headed a democratic country and knew he would be held accountable for his actions.

The trial especially resonated in countries where citizens are still agitating for change against their own longtime rulers.

Activists in Syria, where tanks and shellfire continued to hammer the opposition in the city of Hama, accused the regime of Bashar Assad of striking hard at a moment when world and media attention were distracted by Mubarak's trial.

In Egypt's next-door neighbor Libya, rebels concentrated in the east are fighting to try to oust Moammar Gadhafi, who has held power even longer than Mubarak did.

Mohamad al-Rajali, a spokesman for the rebels, said he welcomed the trial against Mubarak, who like Gadhafi was a military officer before taking power.

''We wish to see Gadhafi in a similar cage one day,'' al-Rajali said. He insisted the Libyan leader would have a fair trial if the rebels ever get hold of him ''because we are a country of laws and we are against public executions.''

Across the region, on the Persian Gulf island of Bahrain, state-run television aired a local tourism program as Mubarak's trial got under way. The tiny kingdom has been roiled by the Gulf's biggest protests, themselves inspired by uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia that eventually brought both countries' leaders down.