27 March 2017

Egypt: 'The Lion Is Back in His Den'

analysis

Hosni Mubarak, the first leader to face trial after the Arab Spring uprisings that swept through North Africa is a free man after spending six years in detention. Legalbrief reports that the extraordinary development marks the end of a futile campaign to find him accountable for numerous human rights abuses during his term in office.

His long-time lawyer, Farid el-Deeb, who has guided him through a tangled cluster of prosecutions since 2011, confirmed his release. Mubarak, who had been held at a Cairo military hospital for most of his incarceration, is recuperating at his Heliopolis home.

Earlier this month, the 88-year-old was acquitted by Egypt's highest appeals court in the final verdict in a long-running case that originally resulted in him being sentenced to life in prison in 2012 over the deaths of 239 people in Arab Spring protests against his rule. The Guardian reports that a separate corruption charge was overturned in January 2015.

For those who worked to topple the former dictator, Mubarak's freedom marks a grim moment in Egypt's modern history. Yet some reacted with little more than resignation as his release became imminent, numbed by the years of political turmoil since his fall.

Mubarak's democratically elected successor, Mohamed Morsi, was overthrown in a popularly backed military coup in 2013. The report notes that many see echoes of Mubarak's style of leadership in Egypt's current leader, Abdel Fatah al-Sisi.

'The Mubarak acquittal is of significant symbolic value in that it reflects an absolute failure of Egyptian judicial and legal institutions to hold a single official accountable for the killing of almost 900 protesters during the January 25 revolution. It is indicative of a deeper, compounded crisis of transitional justice,' said Mai el Sedany, a legal expert with the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy.

Full report in The Guardian

In a telling reflection of government's concern, Mubarak was released under conditions of secrecy and on the quietest day of the week in Egypt. The Boston Globe reports that state media said little about it.

Even the loyalists who frequently cheered Mubarak from the hospital gates through the years were not told beforehand of his pending release, although they were no less jubilant afterwards.

'The lion is back in his den,' said Rehab Abdel Halim, a paratrooper who befriended Mubarak after he gave her a service award in 2009. 'We feel so vindicated. Now nobody can call him ruthless or corrupt any more. If he had done something wrong, the courts would not have cleared him.'

Although Mubarak faced a wide range of charges, he was eventually convicted on a single relatively minor corruption charge. The report notes that Mubarak's legal woes are not entirely over. On Thursday, a Cairo court created the basis for prosecutors to reopen a corruption probe into gifts that Mubarak received from a state-owned newspaper while in power.

Full report in The Boston Globe

On 24 January, 2011, there were two constants in Egypt: the flow of the Nile and that Mubarak would die in office. After all, CNN reports that the 30-year rule of the country's 'Modern Pharaoh' appeared to be secure, shored up by the feared State Security.

However, Egypt wasn't immune to regional events and the momentum leading up to the country's uprising started in Tunisia. Mubarak initially responded with violence. Hundreds of citizens around the country died in clashes with police.

When that didn't work, the President tried concessions. Mubarak delegated powers to a vice-president, Omar Suleiman, and vowed not to run for re-election. Mubarak fled to his seaside home in Sharm El Sheikh. Authorities finally apprehended him after increasing public pressure.

Egyptians were glued to their television sets when his trial began.

Two-thirds of Egyptians never knew another President. For many, he was a father figure. Mubarak appeared in a hospital bed wearing white prison garb, sunglasses, and a scowl. The once strongman looked frail and bitter.

The local press called the next 10 months the 'Trial of the Century'. In the cacophony of the courtroom, the judge called the former President an 'accessory to murder' and sentenced him to life in prison. The report notes that jubilation erupted outside the court and on the streets of Cairo.

However, it wouldn't last long. Egypt wouldn't escape political and economic turmoil and the first democratically elected President would be deposed in a popular military coup.

Full CNN report

A report on the EWN site notes that many Egyptians who lived through his presidency view it as a period of stagnation, autocracy and crony capitalism.

'His release takes that journey full circle, marking what his critics say is the return of the old order to Egypt, where authorities have crushed Mubarak's enemies in the Muslim Brotherhood, killing hundreds and jailing thousands, while his allies regain influence.

'The economic crisis we are living in and the high prices take priority over everything, as does the fear of terrorism. That is what preoccupies ordinary citizens, not Mubarak,' said Khaled Dawoud, an opposition politician who opposed the Islamists but also condemned the bloody crackdown on them.

'When you see the group of people who show up and cheer and support him, you are talking about 150, 200 people,' he said, referring to occasional shows of support outside the Maadi hospital when Mubarak was there.

The report notes that in the turmoil of the Arab uprisings, Tunisian President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali fled into exile in Saudi Arabia, Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi met an ignominious death at the hands of rebels and Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh resigned. However, early hopes of democratic change in the region have eroded, the report states.

Full report on the EWN site

More on This

Top Court Acquits Mubarak Over Protester Killings in Final Ruling

Egypt's top appeals court has acquitted ex-President Mubarak of involvement in protester killings during a 2011 revolt… Read more »

Copyright © 2017 Legalbrief. All rights reserved. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com). To contact the copyright holder directly for corrections — or for permission to republish or make other authorized use of this material, click here.

AllAfrica publishes around 800 reports a day from more than 140 news organizations and over 500 other institutions and individuals, representing a diversity of positions on every topic. We publish news and views ranging from vigorous opponents of governments to government publications and spokespersons. Publishers named above each report are responsible for their own content, which AllAfrica does not have the legal right to edit or correct.

Articles and commentaries that identify allAfrica.com as the publisher are produced or commissioned by AllAfrica. To address comments or complaints, please Contact us.