Egypt's attorney general announced on Tuesday that former President Hosni Mubarak will stand trial for the "pre-meditated murder" of unarmed protesters, and for corruption tied to the fortune he and his family amassed during his 30-year rule. The charges, which could carry the death penalty, mark "a pivotal moment in the revolutions that have swept across more than half a dozen nations" this year, says Matt Bradley in The Wall Street Journal. What will the fallout be? Here, four predictions:
1. Trying Mubarak will split Egypt
Mubarak's pending trial has "left the public opinion divided on what he really deserves," says Jailan Halawi in Al-Ahram Weekly. The strongly held views on the Egyptian street run the gamut from those who believe he should be executed, to those who insist the elderly, infirm Mubarak and his family are innocent scapegoats. Instead of insisting on this vindictive "Roman Circus" of a trial, says India's The Pioneer in an editorial, "Egyptians would do well to pause and reflect upon how the Blacks of South Africa dealt with their past."
2. Egypt will benefit from upholding the rule of law
Kudos to the Egyptians for insisting on "holding the sinners of the past accountable for their crimes, no matter how powerful or influential," says David Dayen at Firedoglake. Trying Mubarak for the deaths of 800 protesters isn't about "retribution," it's about upholding Egypt's laws equally for everyone. "I don’t know a better foundation for civil society than that." Yes, but "the judiciary that we strive for in our new Egypt must not be partisan or politicized," says Amr el-Shobaki in Al-Masry Al-Youm. The legal verdict on Mubarak must come from a fair, evidence-based trial, not the court of public opinion.
3. Other Arab despots will cling more tightly to power
"You can bet that Syria's President Bashar al-Assad is paying close attention" to Mubarak's fate, says Kelly McParland in Canada's National Post. He has already put up "a much more brutal fight to retain his job than Mubarak did," and the murder trial in Egypt will "only encourage Assad to fight even harder." And it's not just Assad, says The Wall Street Journal's Matt Bradley. It will also "send a message to Yemen's president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, who the U.S. is trying to persuade to peacefully cede power, that he is better off clinging to office."
4. Prosecuting Mubarak won't change anything
There are plenty of "cynics" who suggest that Egypt's ruling military council is "playing to the crowd, and putting the president — their former commander and colleague — on trial to save their skins," not to mention their own fortunes, says Jon Leyne at BBC News. Even if the Egyptians execute Mubarak, says Jonathon Narvey in The Propagandist, they've merely "replaced one pharaoh with his face plastered everywhere with a bunch of little faceless pharaohs that may be even harder to get rid of." Instead of a Mubarak dictatorship, Egypt is settling for a military one.