A few years ago I bought a book called “The Trial: A History from Socrates to O.J. Simpson.” While you might easily guess that the book would definitely have in its table of contents the Inquisition, the witch hunts, Nuremberg, and the Moscow show trials, not in your wildest dreams would you have imagined a whole chapter on the trial of animals. For almost five centuries, it was quite common in court cases in several parts of Europe to have an animal as a defendant or for animals to have verdicts issued against them. The cases ranged from donkeys engaging in sexual activity with humans to locusts destroying crops while verdicts ranged from execution and the severing of hooves to offering compensation in cases where it was proved defendants did not have malicious intentions.

Till this very moment, nobody knows what the logic behind those trials was and whatever happened to the simplest of cosmic rules stating that “innocence and guilt depended on the rational exercise of free will” which, by the way, was very well known at the time to lawyers, some of whom actually defended the animals, and theologians, many of whom actually blessed the trials.

Reading about courtrooms where lawyers and clerics waited for rats to respond to a subpoena and which issued verdicts allocating plots of land to beetles and ants might have made my jaws drop, but remembering those very courtrooms saved me from a certain stroke as I watched what has come to be known as “The Trial of the Century” in Egypt.

The way Hosni Mubarak and his interior minister received a life sentence while the latter’s six top aides were acquitted is even more farcical than a case with an animal where the half-eaten body of a five-year-old was found surrounded by a sow and six piglets. After investigating and hearing witnesses, only the mother was sentenced to death while the little ones were found innocent. The pigs’ case does seem more logical within its context than this one because if we assume, according to what people might have believed back then, that pigs have the ability to tell right from wrong and can, therefore, be tried with human laws, then maybe this should not apply to “minors” who have not yet reached this kind of awareness. It made sense, then, to punish the “adult” pig only and consider the piglets’ presence at the crime scene a sheer act of innocent subordination to the murderous mother.

This is not even the case with the minister and his top aides. If the boss receives such a punishment for an action that was supposedly implemented by a group of people who report directly to him and this very group turns out to be innocent, then something is terribly wrong. Let us all agree that orders were issued to fire live ammunition at protestors and that it is absolutely ridiculous to buy the theory that all officers across the whole country were in a state of self-defense and simultaneously decided to use their own guns to shoot when they felt their lives were threatened by a bunch of unarmed youth while the ministry only ordered them to use tear gas and water cannons.

The question was who issued the orders.

Well, according to the verdict the former president and his prime minister are responsible for the death of protestors, but here comes the tricky part: they are not being punished for ordering this, but for seeing it happening and not doing anything to stop it. So, they have been handed a life sentence for passive reaction and not criminal action.

Let’s assume that this is true and that the verdict was for the political responsibility those two have towards the Egyptian people, who then gave the orders? It must have been top officials at the interior ministry who have massive groups of security personnel under their beck and call and who have the power to direct them and punish them if they don’t comply. But what is the alternative if all those were proven innocent? At this point, another question pops up: if we assume that those senior officers did not order the shootings, can’t they by virtue of their position be also responsible for not stopping the shootings and therefore get the same or a similar sentence as their minister? Another question: if they are not responsible, then who is? Will each and every officer be tried individually then?

According to legal experts, the verdict is technically correct because there is no way you can prove that this specific bullet coming out of this specific gun was shot at this specific protestor. I totally agree. But that is exactly why you hold officials at the top of the security hierarchy accountable for the actions of the officers they head and it is the responsibility of each and every one of those officials to start an investigation that unravels who of those officers did what and when.

The verdict as it is now actually implies a full acquittal of the entire interior ministry and the sentence handed to the minister means nothing at all simply because it is based on the responsibilities implied by the political position of the culprit rather than actual evidence of a crime he committed or ordered. In addition to the fact that when appealed the verdict might be dropped altogether, the minister, like the former president, is now similar to the Japanese mayor who resigned after an open manhole was spotted in one of the streets, even though he neither opened it nor knew it was open but was only in charge of the area in which it is located. I guess we should now feel sorry for him for he is paying the price of a crime he did not commit and would have loved to stop had he been given the proper chance. Perhaps we should also start wondering whether the interior ministry was not involved at all in killing protestors and that those who fired at us in cold blood were really Hezbollah and Hamas militants disguised as riot police like several ministry officials try to make it sound or maybe it was simply that “third party” the police and the army have been talking about every time their alleged self-restraint failed them.

Absolving the interior ministry of blame dealt a fatal blow to the revolution not only because toppling this brutal institution was one of its goals, but also because it is totally drenched in the blood of innocent Egyptians and not officially and legally admitting that makes it seem like those lives were wasted in vain. Absolute lack of trust in the judiciary and the prosecution, whose politicized stance has now become utterly unmistakable, add to the sense of abandonment revolutionaries feel.

I remember how I did not like the way the trial of Mubarak and his interior minister focused on the killing of protestors because you can’t just punish a regime for what it did in its last few days while ignoring all the crimes it committed in the past couple of decades. And I remember how many of my friends told me, “Be patient! This is just the start. We get this first and the rest will come.”

Well, looks like no “rest” is coming… not any time soon at least.

I need to re-read the story of the rooster in the 15th century who was tried, beheaded, and disemboweled for laying an egg. The egg, they said, was expected to hatch a freak of nature, part cockerel part serpent, which belches venom and glares lethal rays. It made sense then to get rid of the progenitor and the potential offspring and the verdict was quite commonsensical … Definitely more so than a lot of human trials.