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Army in a bind over Mubarak

An effigy hanging from a lamppost shows the fate some protesters in the Egyptian port city of Suez would like to see meted out to former president Hosni Mubarak.

world Updated: Jul 29, 2011 00:43 IST

An effigy hanging from a lamppost shows the fate some protesters in the Egyptian port city of Suez would like to see meted out to former president Hosni Mubarak. But they don’t believe the army will ever let it happen to their former commander.

“Our impression right now is that Mubarak is still protected by someone, maybe the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, maybe someone from outside. Some countries still protect him,” said Mohamed Mahmoud, 33, a youth movement coordinator in Suez, one of the most violent spots in the uprising that unseated Mubarak.

Shortly after he spoke, dozens of protesters marched past Suez’s burned-out police headquarters and on to a military barracks chanting slogans against the army for foot-dragging. Barbed wire and army vehicles blocked the road approaching it.

Mubarak’s trial, set to start on August 3, has put the army in a tight spot. It is squeezed on one side by protesters demanding the ousted president be held to account and on the other by conservative Gulf Arab states quietly pressing for Egypt not to humiliate a former ally, partly — analysts say — because this might set a dangerous precedent for their own rulers.

Officers privately admit the military has no appetite for trying the decorated veteran who led Egypt’s air force in the 1973 war against Israel. Publicly, however, they insist they are not taking sides and it is in the hands of the judiciary.