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Who Will Try Asma Mahfouz?

Only Egyptians who use the Internet knew Asma Mahfouz before the revolution. She used to make video recordings calling on Egyptians to come out and demonstrate to remove Mubarak. She looked good and what she said was moving and heartfelt -- a young and attractive Egyptian woman who wore the hijab. She looked like our daughters and sisters, but something noble made her stand out. Instead of spending her time looking for an eligible man to marry and enjoying life, as many women do, she was preoccupied with the country's destiny and decided to pay the price for freedom. The revolution broke out and Asma took part. She continued to express her opinions candidly and more than once she criticized the performance of the military council. She recorded what she saw in the Abbasia demonstration, saying that thugs were attacking the demonstrators with swords and petrol bombs while military policemen looked on and did nothing to prevent the massacre. Two days ago Asma received a summons for questioning by the military prosecutor's office. In the morning Asma went to the prosecutor's office with her lawyer and found a large group of young people standing in solidarity with her. She greeted them and thanked them warmly. She was grateful to them because they had taken the trouble to come in the heat when they were fasting for Ramadan.

After a while a military police officer appeared, the same officer who had saluted former Interior Minister Habib el-Adli as he came out of the courthouse. The officer came out and asked her with disdain, "Are you Asma Mahfouz?"
"Yes."
"Think you're a big shot? Come with me for questioning."
Asma and her lawyer followed him to the interrogation room, but then the officer stopped and turned, and told her, "Only you can come in."
The lawyer objected and insisted on going in with her, but the officer said firmly, "The interrogator wants her alone."
The lawyer realized there was no point in objecting and turned away, while the officer stepped forward, tapped on the door and waited for permission Then he went in, followed by Asma. He saluted the interrogator, who was sitting behind the desk. Then he turned and left. Asma had her head bowed, exhausted by the heat and from fasting.

The interrogator said, "Please come in."
His voice was familiar. She had heard it many times before. She looked up and was taken aback. She began to breathe heavily from the impact. She couldn't believe her eyes and thought she might be dreaming. Hosni Mubarak was sitting behind the desk, wearing his military uniform with medals on his chest. He leaned back, smiled and said, "Sit down, Asma."
In panic, she screamed, "You're Hosni Mubarak."
The interrogator smiled and she went on screaming. "You're tricking us. How did you escape from prison?" she said.
Mubarak laughed and said, "I've been here for years."
"How can you be here and there at the same time?"
"That's a complicated question and it would take a while to explain."
"If you're here, who is it that appears in the dock during the trial?" she asked.
"Listen, I'm here to interrogate you, not to answer your questions."
"I have to know how you escaped," said Asma.
Mubarak raised his voice with a tone of warning. "If you don't stop making a scene, I'll have you thrown in jail on a charge of insulting the interrogator," he said.

There was a moment of silence and Asma began to examine him again. He was Hosni Mubarak without a shadow of doubt. He looked relaxed, calm and in good health. She thought of going outside to tell her colleagues, regardless of the consequences. As if he had read her thoughts, Mubarak said, "Be sensible and behave wisely. Don't do anything you might regret. Remember that your fate is in my hands. I'll now begin the interrogation."
"You don't have the right to refer civilians to military courts," Asma said.
"I don't have the right but I do have the means."
Asma did not speak, so Mubarak continued, adopting an official tone. "Why do you insult the armed forces?"
"Like all Egyptians, I'm proud of the Egyptian army," she replied.
Mubarak looked at the papers in front of him and said, "But on Facebook you wrote inappropriate comments about the military council."
"I was criticizing the policies of the military council."
"That's an insult to the army," said Mubarak.
"What's insulting is to say nothing about mistakes. The military council is playing the role of the head of state during the transitional period, so I have a right to criticize its performance."
"Who are you to criticize the military council?" asked Mubarak.
"I'm an Egyptian citizen."
"You're a child living an illusion, and I'll teach you some manners."
"Is this the way you conduct a legal inquiry?" asked Asma.
Mubarak looked at the papers again, and said, "On Twitter you wrote a remark inciting Egyptians to carry out assassinations."
"That's a ridiculous and false accusation. What I wrote, word for word, was 'If justice isn't done, the families of those killed in the revolution will make the murderers pay the price by themselves."

There was another silence, and then Asma resumed: "Please, this interrogation is illegal. Firstly, because it's being conducting in the absence of a lawyer and, secondly, because you yourself have been charged with a felony. How can you question me?"
Mubarak looked angry. The muscles of his face contracted, he banged the desk with his hand and shouted in a voice like thunder, "I told you I've been here for ages. Understand?"
"You can say what you like but I won't answer your questions," said Asma.
"You'll do yourself harm."
"I can't accept you questioning me, whatever the price."
"I'll issue a detention order. I'll make an example of you."
"I'm prepared to be detained."
Asma looked at him defiantly. Suddenly Mubarak laughed and said, "No, you little hero! Okay, enough. Forget the interrogation. Can we talk?"
"What do you want?"
Mubarak rose from his seat, went to the refrigerator, opened it and took out a can of soda. He opened it and it made a pop. "Aren't you fasting?" interjected Asma.
"I'm ill, so I have the right not to fast."
Mubarak took a gulp and burped. "Look. Asma," he said, "I want to say something to you and your colleagues. You should all mind your own business and think about your future because the subject's closed."
"What subject?"
"The game's over, thank God."
"We made a great revolution."
"You've wrecked the country," said Mubarak.
"It's you who wrecked and plundered Egypt, abused and murdered Egyptians."
"The Egyptian people still love me. I've seen demonstrations of support in Mustafa Mahmoud and Roxy squares."
"Those people are paid, or people who benefited from your corrupt regime," said Asma.
Mubarak smiled and sighed, as though humouring a child. "Okay, Asma. You called for my resignation and trial. What have you gained?"
"We've gained freedom."
Mubarak gave a loud laugh and said, "Freedom or chaos?"
"As long as we're free of your injustice, everything else is insignificant," said Asma.
"I'm still around. It's true you can see me in the dock, but I'm everywhere. Everything in Egypt still gets done in the way I want; in fact I'm now more powerful than before. My disciples are active all over the place."
"We're going to purge Egypt of all your followers."
"You don't have the right to do that. Didn't you object to rigged elections? Well, the next elections will be free and fair, but they'll bring my men to power. My disciples will win a majority and will form the next government," said Mubarak.
"What do you mean?"
"One day you'll discover that I'm not a person. I'm a way of thinking, a particular vision of life, a perfect, integral system."

Mubarak stopped a while, then smiled and said, "Some of those who were my enemies yesterday are now my allies, and in the elections they'll vote my way."
"We'll keep up the pressure until there's complete change," said Asma.
"That's no longer possible."
"Just as we overthrew you, we'll overthrow your regime."
"Egyptians have started to hate the revolution," said Mubarak.
"That's not true. Open the door and you'll see dozens of young people standing with me."
"Egyptians by nature don't like revolution. They find it reassuring to be submissive to a strong leader even if he mistreats them. I made you a proposal to stay in office until September but you turned it down, and what was the outcome? Egyptians are exhausted and frustrated. Tourism has been disrupted, investment has vanished and Egyptians no longer feel their children are safe from thugs. There are murders and shootings everywhere."
"You're the reason. It was your followers who unleashed the thugs, and it's your men who conspired to impoverish and frighten Egyptians so that they regret the revolution," said Asma.
"All's fair in war."
"We'll win, you'll see."
"Delusions. People now hate the revolution. In fact, many of them consider you traitors."
"I won't allow you..."
Mubarak smiled in exasperation and said, "Should you be speaking that way to someone your grandfather's age?"
"I'm speaking to a monster who's responsible for killing thousands of Egyptians."
"And you and your colleagues stand accused of receiving money from abroad," said Mubarak.
"You spread lies to discredit the revolution. There's no evidence for the charges made by General Roweini and we've filed a complaint against him to the military prosecutor."
Mubarak smiled and said, "You've filed a complaint against Roweini?"
"Of course."
"I'm the one who'll investigate it."
"If you investigate the complaint against General Roweini, then I can guess the result."
Mubarak looked at her with scorn. Asma stood up and said, "I'm leaving."
"I warn you."
"Do what you like."
"Then wait for the prosecutor's decision outside," said Mubarak.

Asma picked up her bag and turned to go. As though provoked by her intransigence, Mubarak said, "Do you know that the charges against you could mean ten years in military jail?"
Asma looked at him and said calmly, "During the revolution I left home every day in the knowledge that I might die at any moment. Your snipers were killing my colleagues in front of my eyes. We no longer fear death. Do what you like but Egypt will triumph over you and your followers."
Asma walked out and slammed the door behind her. Dozens of her colleagues and the lawyer were standing waiting outside. They gathered around her and pressed her to tell them what had happened in the questioning. She hesitated a moment, then huffed angrily and said, "Do you know who interrogated me?"
They looked at her expectantly, and she said, "Hosni Mubarak."
They didn't look surprised and one of them shouted out, "Whatever they do the revolution will triumph!"
And all those present supported him.

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