Fascinating development at the trial of 43 pro-democracy NGO staffers in Egypt, including members of the American democracy-promotion agencies NDI and IRI: the judges have withdrawn from the case, forcing the regime to appoint new judges and start the trial again, if it can. The reason for the judges’ withdrawal: “The court felt uneasiness,” the now-former lead judge said. Which is precisely what one would have hoped they’d feel.
Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton is in talks to have the whole trial called off. I persist in thinking Egypt is more important than any of its Arab neighbours to the future of the Middle East, because of Egypt’s size, its historical role in the region, its border with Israel. And while a lot of observers have been tempted to write Egypt off since last year’s pro-democracy uprising, to me the signals, while constantly worrying, are more mixed. The NGO trial looks, for all the world, as though it’s taking place in a complex society. With its share of good guys and gals, who could use a hand.