The Ashburton Guardian. Magna est Veritas, et Prevalebit. TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 28, 1882. Arabi’s Trial, and Egyptian Notions of Right.
The still pending trial of the Egyptian rebel Arabi has been a curions one in several of its incidents, as illustrating Egyptian notions of law and justice, and the complete dependence of both these upon strength or weakness respectively. Of course it is of importance that our country should know this, not merely as a guide at the present time as to the best course of action, but also as,a lesson for the future. A person tolerably well acquainted with Egyptian history might have known beforehand that the state of slavery in which the country has been sunk for several hundred years had almost obliterated the sense of right or wrong as such, but left a lively impression of the importance of power or of being on good terms with the powers that be. The most cruel tyranny only confirmed this view of such matters. When Mahammad Ali, the founder of the present dynasty, at the early part of the present century sacrificed the lives of 20,000 of his laborers in merely cutting the Mahmoudieh Canal, he stood as firmly on his throne then as ever afterwards, and no one of his subjects ever dreamt of a rebellion. The same Prince, in order to get rid of hfs military aristocracy, the Mamelukes, invited them to a friendly banquet, and then massacred them by firing down upon them in a narrow line. No one in his own country thought in any way the worse of him for it. His son, Ibrahim Pasha, the fighting prince of the family, often in battle, neither asked for nor gave quarter to the enemy, and never was military discipline as well kept up in modern times in Egypt as it was then. The present Pasha, Te,wfik, though a comparatively humane and honorable prince, and though well educated and travelled in Europe, has apparently little belief in much but the divine right of the strongest. When his rebel subject, Arabi, was captured he seems to have expressed no more indignation at the rebellion, robbery, and attempt to murder himself, organised by the prisoner than an Indian officer would at the attack of a tiger. In the same manner, when the English
Commander-in Chief heldjiArabi at;his mercy, the Khedive.. se«!ms tg have: fancied that a public enquiry as to the commission of any <Srh;ne would have been an idle form, 1 and that the prisoner would at once be either shot or hanged. The idea of a public trial by a mixed commission of officers of various nations, with counsel engaged to defend the prisoner, was evidently regarded by the Khedive and his present Cabinet as a most useless and even mischievous piece of pedantry, for both be and they protested. No - doubt they regarded the notion of giving the prisoner fair play, and even more, of so conducting the trial that all nations could see he had fair play, as much bn a par with the idle politeness of asking him the precise kind of Manilla rope with which lie would be hanged. So far as we can learn from the telegrams it appears that our people did actually make the unwise concession of withholding the right of cross-examining witnesses from the prisoner’s counsel. Almost certainly this will not be con-' sidered fair in England, though there is no doubt whatever that it is quite in
accordance with Egyptian criminal law procedure. At the last moment, with a politeness that could well have been dispensed with, the Commission before' whom the prisoner was tried have referred the verdict and we presume the punishment, if any is to be awarded, to the English Government. It is to be hoped most devoutly that the English Government will decline any such responsibility. As it is already, almost every natiqn on the Continent is to the last degree hostile to our people for being as successful as they have been in promptly putting down the rebellion in Egypt, and ending the war. If, now, England were to decide on an important State trial without hearing the evidence and without the accused being allowed the right to cross-examine witnesses through counsel, we should never hear the last of our iniquitous conduct. It.’ is to be hoped that England will insist on Egypt getting rid of her own nuisances, especially as we have already given her a good helping hand in suppressing a rebellious attempt at obstruction. It is very clear, clearer than ever, now that it would be mere folly to leave Egypt without a sufficient force, say of ten thousand men at least, to enforce law and order. So long as our soldiers are there in sufficient force, so long will the peace be preserved and the country gradually emerge from the ruinous losses it .has sustained through , ; the recent war. So soon as the troop? are withdrawn will either Arabi or somfe Other scoundrel come to the front and repeat the outrages of Alexandria and Tantah. ! At present the Egyptians have not been educated up to the point of understanding anything but : the might of physical force. Even the Khedive himself (an exceptionally hdnest and humane prince for an Oriental, personally a friend of Great Britain, and an enemy of Arabi), in the very proclamation in which he declared him deprived of all his State offices and a rebel, alleged as one principal reason that he 1 had not attempted to defend Alexandria with proper energy against the Btitish troops ! At that time certainly Alexandria had been taken, and the British army seemed likely to prove finally the stronger; but on the other hand Moslem sentiment in the country generally was also strong, and it was not quite certain that that might not get the upper hand. So this curious and ingenious compromise between the two opposing ideas as to the probabilities of ultimate success was that, adopted.