Some hoped the trial, which began Wednesday in Cairo, would be the first of several bringing longtime autocrats to justice. Others weren't quite sure what to make of the spectacle, torn between a desire for justice and the discomfort of seeing a once-all-powerful Arab leader treated like a common criminal.
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In the West Bank city of Ramallah, 29-year-old Palestinian Salah Abu Samera saw emerging democracy.
"It's unusual in the Arab world," he said. "This is the first time we see a leader in a real court. This is good for democracy, good for the future. We've always heard of leaders on trial in Israel, in Turkey, in the US, or Europe. But this is the first time in the Arab world."
Another Palestinian, retiree Mohammed Adnan, 64, described Mubarak's trial as a "huge move" for the region. He said the longtime Egyptian strongman never would have treated his people as he did had he headed a democratic country and knew he would be held accountable for his actions.
The trial especially resonated in countries where citizens are still agitating for change against their own longtime rulers.
Activists in Syria, where tanks and shellfire continued to hammer the opposition in the city of Hama, accused the regime of Bashar Assad of striking hard at a moment when world and media attention were distracted by Mubarak's trial.
'Massive shame for Arab world'
Not everyone saw the courtroom drama as a step forward, however. "The Mubarak trial today is a massive shame for the Arab world. For 30 years he served the people. ... They should have made him a statue of honor next to the Sphinx," said Hassan al-Masri, 45, from Gaza City.
He described Mubarak as a fighter and said a great leader for the Arabs "does not deserve to sit inside a cage like a criminal."
Mahmoud, the Iraqi pastry store owner, also criticized the way the Egyptian authorities dealt with Mubarak by bringing him into the courtroom on a hospital gurney.
"We know that he made mistakes since he took office, but authorities should have shown some respect to this leader ... instead of dealing with him in such a humiliating way," he said. "They should have waited until he can stand trial with an elegant suit, not lying on a stretcher."
Sultan al-Qassemi, 33, a widely followed Twitter user and columnist in the United Arab Emirates, voiced similar feelings. On one hand, he said he doesn't like seeing an elderly man being treated as Mubarak was, but on the other, he said he thinks of what kind of justice those killed in the uprising deserve.
"I almost wish he had stepped down earlier" so things wouldn't have come to this, he said.
But he added that Mubarak's fate should be left to his fellow countrymen. "It's not for me to say how it should proceed. ... In the end it's up to the Egyptians," al-Qassemi said.
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