It was a beautiful morning and we all arrived early in order to get a seat, as it was rumored that they would only be allowing a limited number of people inside the courtroom today.
There was an unusual feeling of excitement in the air, and even the most skeptical among us dared hope that today was THE day. All the regulars were there—the ferenj (journalists , observers, and diplomats) crowding the front rows, the immediate family members behind to the left, and additional relatives, friends and supporters left to fill in the gaps.
As usual, we had time to kill. After the greetings, speculations and words of encouragement were exchanged, casual conversation began to wane and the defendants had still not appeared.
Finally, shortly after 10 o’clock, they were brought in and everyone sprang to their feet, waving and smiling (now skilled in the art of communicating without words.) The prisoners looked well and flashed us triumphant thumbs-up as they filed in. They appeared overjoyed to see one another again, and we silently interpreted this scene as the appropriate prelude to their immediate release.
After about 15 minutes everyone was settled in their seats and the judges filed in.
Leul. Momhammed…When it was clear that Judge Adil would not be present (a fact that was neither acknowledged nor recorded), all hope instantly evaporated.
The session was over less than 5 minutes later.
The trial would once again be adjourned, due to the “complexity of the case”, we were told. At first, the date of May 9th was given, which was almost immediately corrected to April 9th. By way of excuse, the judge assured us that they had first intended to resume proceedings on March 30th, but couldn’t because it was a holiday. Then he hesitated again, and consulted the other, amidst disproving murmers from the crowd. After a few moments of confusion, he again corrected himself and announced that the trial would definitely resume the following Friday (the 30th). He announced that on this date the court would make their final ruling and then repeated that this would be the “last one”.
(It is amazing, really. He must have spoken less than 5 sentences--which he had over two weeks to prepare--and he still managed to get it wrong not once, but twice!)
There were sighs and tears from family members, and frustration was evident on the faces of all in attendance.
And then it was over.