CAIRO — Hosni Mubarak’s defense attorney argued in court Sunday that his client is still the president of Egypt and that his trial in criminal court violates the nation’s suspended constitution.
The attorney, Farid el Deeb, made the statements during his closing argument in the trial, which began Aug. 3. Mubarak, who ruled Egypt for nearly 30 years, his security chief Habib el Adly and six of his deputies are charged with complicity in the killing of protesters during the 18-day uprising last winter that forced Mubarak’s ouster last February. If Mubarak is convicted of those charges, he could face the death penalty. In a separate case, Mubarak, his two sons and a family friend have been charged with graft.
The new defense argument was met with derision from revolutionaries and lawyers for the families of nearly 1,000 slain protesters who rose up a year ago this week to force aside the autocrat.
Legal experts also rejected the argument as legally unsound and said it is likely to be dismissed by Judge Ahmed Refaat, who is presiding over the case. When Egypt’s military rulers pushed Mubarak aside, he became a regular citizen, subject to the same laws as ordinary Egyptians, the experts said.
“Mubarak left his position, not by resigning, but because the January 25 revolution forced him out,” said Judge Mohamed Hamed el-Gamal, the former head of Egypt’s State Council which oversees administrative courts. “He will be judged by Egyptian law like any other Egyptian because he is not president.”
Also Sunday, a temporary power-sharing agreement between major parliamentary parties, both liberal and Islamist, was already fragmenting, just one day before the first post-Mubarak parliament was scheduled to meet.
The leftist Egyptian Social Democratic Party pulled out of the agreement with other parties, including the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, on how to divide the top parliamentary positions. A statement from the Social Democratic party said negotiations failed because officials could not agree on how to fill all the positions in a representative way.
When the agreement was announced last week, the parties pledged to back a member of the Freedom and Justice Party, which will fill nearly half the seats in the lower house of parliament, as speaker of the parliament. The party’s strong showing means it could still secure the speaker’s job even without the support of the Social Democratic party.
In the courtroom, Deeb called Mubarak “Egypt’s wounded eagle, leader of the eagles in the battle to restore dignity,” casting the dictator as a victim of last year’s revolt, according to state news reports.
Deeb argued that the ailing 83-year-old never officially resigned as president and only stepped aside in a phone conversation with his then-vice president, Omar Suleiman. All executive decisions made since, including the dissolution of Mubarak’s parliament and the suspension of the 1971 constitution, are violations of that same constitution, because Mubarak did not make the pronouncements, he said.
“This court is not qualified to try him and he must be acquitted,” Deeb told the court as lawyers for the victims chanted for his execution, according to local news reports.
Adly’s defense team is expected to begin presenting its case on Monday. So far witnesses have failed to link Mubarak to orders to kill protesters, lawyers involved on both sides of the case say.
Egyptians have paid close attention to the case since Mubarak first appeared inside a Cairo courtroom on a hospital bed, behind a prosecution cage. If he is acquitted, analysts say, the decision will likely be met with major dissent in the streets.