Egyptian pro-democracy protesters took to the streets on Jan. 25 demanding economic and political reform. Eighteen days later, Hosni Mubarak stepped down, ending his 30-year reign as Egypt's unchecked leader. The ailing former president was detained on April 13 on charges of corruption and ordering the killing of protesters, but little was seen or heard from him until Aug. 3, when the world saw a broken Mubarak wheeled into a courtroom on a hospital gurney. His words that day, "Yes, I am here. I deny all these accusations completely," are all Egyptians have heard -- from the man they once called "pharaoh" -- since his resignation Feb. 11.
The ex-president's two sons, Alaa and Gamal, are also on trial, and Fareed ElDeeb, a former prosecutor practicing law since 1971, has represented the Mubarak family since April. ElDeeb is a famous trial lawyer in Egypt, with a long resume of representing high-profile clients, including Azzam Azzam, convicted in 1997 for spying for Israel, and Talat Mustapha, a real estate tycoon currently serving 15 years in prison for killing his Lebanese girlfriend. Over the years, ElDeeb has also represented famous public figures such as the Nobel Prize-winning writer Naguib Mahfouz; award-winning actress Yousra, belly dancer Fifi Abdo, and the family of late president Anwar Sadat.
But the Mubaraks are without question his highest-profile case yet, and one that has millions of Egyptians glued to their television sets. The trial, which has been postponed several times, is scheduled to resume on Dec. 28. It includes a criminal case and hundreds of civil complaints, filed by lawyers representing the families of those killed during the revolution.
Mohamed Fadel Fahmy caught up with ElDeeb at his home in Cairo. Excerpts:
Foreign Policy: How are the former president and the Mubarak family coping with their situation now?
Farid ElDeeb: Mubarak does not comment much. He only asks, "What is the next step?" He is used to secrecy. What amazes me is that I have never heard him badmouth anyone, even those who attack him. I asked him once how it feels not to be free. He responded, "Since when have I been free? I was never able go out freely. The security [forces] surrounded me all the time. I could not walk to the garden, cinema, or take to the streets. I got used to it."
There is no doubt the life of the family that lived in the presidential palace for 30 years has turned upside down. Suzanne Mubarak [the former president's wife] is suffering constantly over the future of her family. She visits Mubarak daily in the hospital, with the permission of the general prosecutor, then returns to her home at night. Alaa Mubarak's son Omar had been studying and taking exams at home but this semester he returned to his American school in Cairo.
In dealing with [former president Mubarak], I realized he is a very kind man who may have made mistakes like any leader but never meant to intentionally damage his country.