In former President Hosni Mubarak’s court session Sunday, one of his most outspoken critics, journalist and TV personality Ibrahim Eissa, offered a vague, watered-down version of events that took place on the “Friday of Rage,” January 28, 2011.
According to his testimony, published by state-run daily newspaper Al-Ahram, Eissa said that Mubarak did not order the use of force against protesters or the cutting of phone and Internet lines, adding that no patriotic president would give such orders.
Mubarak faces charges of killing protesters in 2011. The court sessions resumed on January 11 and are set to continue until January 13.
In another report published by Al-Ahram, Eissa said that he was not clear as to the nature of the deaths and injuries that day, given the large crowds and number of protesters around him.
He said that some of the protesters showed him empty cartridges, but that he didn’t have the expertise to identify them.
Eissa recalled seeing a protester assault a soldier, and said he intervened and asked him to stop. The soldier then allegedly left his car and took off his uniform.
He also remembered seeing people coming out of the National Democratic Party headquarters carrying chairs and other objects from inside.
On January 28, 2011, mass protests broke out across Egypt after Friday prayers, resulting in violent confrontations with security forces and leaving hundreds dead.
Later that night, the police withdrew from the streets and the military was deployed to maintain order; Internet and phone services were cut across the country.
Eissa said in his testimony that people responded to calls for mass protests on January 25, 2011, because they were motivated by events in Tunis earlier that month, when President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali stepped down following demonstrations, privately owned daily newspaper Al-Shorouk said.
He suggested that most protesters were young members of various political groups, who were provoked by rumors that Mubarak would hand over power to his son Gamal.
He also said that those who stormed prisons during the January 25 uprising are “traitors to the nation,” who sought to destroy the state and terrorize Egyptians “to clear the political arena for themselves,” according to Al-Shorouk.
Under Mubarak’s reign, Eissa was known as a staunch and vocal opponent of the president. In 2008, he was sentenced to six months in prison, later reduced to two months on appeal, for reporting and publishing false information about Mubarak’s health. Shortly after, Mubarak pardoned Eissa.