Egypt's Mubarak can be tried for political crimes, legal experts say

Osman El Sharnoubi , Tuesday 2 Dec 2014

Despite being acquitted of murder and corruption, other laws still exist to implicate toppled president Hosni Mubarak

File Photo: Egypt's ousted president Hosni Mubarak sits inside a dock in April at the Police Academy on the outskirts of Cairo (Photo: Reuters)

Ousted president Hosni Mubarak could be tried for committing alleged political crimes during his thirty year reign under several Egyptian laws, legal experts said.

On Saturday, an Egyptian criminal court dropped charges against Mubarak,86, of complicity in the killing of protesters durnig the 2011 uprising which led to his ouster. It also  cleared him of corruption charges, triggering a wave of criticism from Islamist and pro-revolutionary groups.

Political groups and commentators called for enacting Egypt's "corrupting political life" law – a 2011 amendment of the "treason" law issued after the 1952 revolution that toppled the monarchy.

On Monday, an alliance of liberal and leftist groups launched a campaign titled "Indict Them."

Whether for reasons of insufficient or destroyed evidence, or the technical difficulty of proving accusations against them, the main grievance for the alliance is that it became clear that it was impossible to indict Mubarak and members of his regime on conventional criminal charges.

Figures from Mubarak's regime – associated with poll rigging, corruption and a sharp deterioration in public services – can be put on trial on charges of political corruption, experts say.

"There are several tools which can be used to try members of the old regime," lawyer Essam El-Eslamboly told Ahram Online.

El-Eslamboly pointed to the "corrupting political life" law of 2011 and two other laws from the 1950s – 247 from 1956 and 79 from 1958 – that can be used to try the president for treason and ministers for treason and corruption.

These laws can be used to put Mubarak in court again, El-Eslamboly contends.

The "corrupting political life" law was issued by the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) in November 2011. It stipulates political penalties like barring convicted ex-officials or politicians from running public office, political parties and public institutions and companies.

This law, says El-Eslamboly, may not be enough to punish Mubarak and his regime, as the restrictions from office last for no more than several years and may not be proportional to the extent of crimes they have committed.

Amr Shalaqani, professor of law at the American University in Cairo, also said the amended political corruption law is not enough.

"When it was amended, most of the crimes defined in the 1952 law were scrapped, leaving two articles that have broad definitions which would make it difficult for judges to issue convictions," he said.

The scrapped articles define crimes of nepotism and illicit gains and influencing the judiciary.

The articles that survived amendments define crimes of "aiding in the corruption of state's authority and harming or neglecting the country's interests", and punishing interference in office "against the public interest."

These articles are open to many interpretations, he said.

"The law became devoid of its content outside of the framework of an exceptional tribunal, making it subject to the same procedural regulations of a normal court that led to dropping Mubarak's charges," he said.

Nevertheless, Shalaqani said it may be used to try Mubarak, regardless of the difficulty of indictment.

The general prosecution – the authority with the power to prosecute such accusations of its own accord or after investigating complaints – has not prosecuted a single Egyptian citizen on such charges, judicial sources told Ahram Online.

Mohamed Nour Farahat, a law professor at Zagazig University, is also demanding the enactment of the 2011 "corrupting political life law." However, Farahat says the nature of its penalties – being non-criminal – would only ban members of Mubarak's National Democratic Party from running for parliament.

Otherwise, the 1956 and 1958 laws are a more realistic way to achieve accountability for the political crimes the public accuses Mubarak and his regime of committing, he says.

The law allows for Mubarak and co. to be tried for treason, manipulation of the constitution, profiteering and violating the foundations of the republican order, Farahat told Ahram Online.

However, there are legislative restraints on invoking the law, as court and prosecution powers stipulated in the law are now obsolete.

However, Farahat says "a simple amendment by the president to make the general prosecution the prosecuting authority and designating the appeals court for trial would solve the issue."

While the law may be amended for future use, it will remain within the general prosecution's authority to take action against members of the former regime.

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