Egypt’s Mubarak could be a free man on Saturday, but few still care

Passant Darwish , Friday 8 May 2015

The ousted president awaits a final verdict in an embezzlement case on Saturday

Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak
Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak (Photo: Reuters)

Egypt’s ousted president Hosni Mubarak awaits a final verdict in the retrial of an embezzlement case on Saturday, while he has been cleared of charges in all other lawsuits against him since his deposal in 2011.

In November, a court threw out a case in which the deposed autocrat was accused of complicity in murdering protesters during the January 2011 protests that led to his downfall. Egypt’s Court of Cassation can still decide to accept or reject an appeal by the general prosecution on 4 June.

In the same month, Mubarak was also cleared in two other cases.

The former president was cleared from charges of profiteering from his position by accepting presents in the form of villas in the Red Sea resort of Sharm El-Sheikh, as the 10-year statute of limitations had expired.

Graft charges were also dropped in a case in which he was accused of exporting natural gas to Israel at below market prices.

In the “presidential palaces” or “mansions” case, in May last year the ousted president was convicted of embezzling public funds that were originally allocated to the upkeep of presidential palaces to spent them on mansions he or his family owned.

He received a three-year prison sentence, but a court overturned the conviction in January and ordered a retrial.

On Saturday, a Cairo court is set to issue a verdict in the retrial of the case.

Since Mubarak is the one who filed the appeal the court, according to Egypt’s penal code, courts can: accept or reject appeals; uphold or reduce verdicts; but are not allowed to mete out an increased sentence.

Mubarak served preventative-detention time from April 2011 to August 2013, and then was transferred to the Maadi Military hospital where he remained under house arrest.

According to Egyptian law, preventative-detention time is counted as time served towards any possible sentence.

Free men

The decision of whether Mubarak is going to walk free or not is up to the court on Saturday, but Mubarak and his sons have already been acting as free men.

Last month, Alaa and Gamal Mubarak made their first public appearance since their release from prison showing up at the funeral of the mother of journalist Mostafa Bakry, once a strong critic of Mubarak’s regime.

On 26 April, Mubarak briefly spoke on the phone to the Sada El-Balad private TV channel, glorifying his role in expelling Israeli forces from Sinai, on the 33rd anniversary of Sinai's liberation.

He went on to call on Egyptians to “stand behind” President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi as he has some “fateful decisions to be taken”.

Last week, photos surfaced of Gamal Mubarak, along with his wife and daughter, on a family outing to Giza’s pyramids.

On Mubarak’s 87th birthday on 4 May, dozens of his supporters gathered outside the Maadi Military Hospital, which he has called home for the past couple of years, chanting and holding up photos of the once most powerful man in Egypt.

Mubarak, in turn, waved to his fans from the window of his room, overlooking the Nile.


But do people still care if Mubarak walks free on Saturday?

“With the confusion and brainwashing of the past years, the sweeping majority don’t know what is wrong or right,” political analyst Ayman El-Sayyad told Ahram Online.

“They have reached a state of indifference,” he said.

But there are those who still care.

Last November, following the dropping of charges against Mubarak in the complicity of killing protesters case, several hundreds rushed to Tahrir Square, the epicentre of the January 2011 revolution, to protest the verdict.

But protesters had not notified authorities of their protest at least three days in advance, in violation of a new protest law, passed in November 2013, that stipulates heavy fines and prison sentences for demonstrating.

Protesters were stopped from entering Tahrir Square, and two died as police attempted to disperse the protesters.

Over 70 protesters were arrested for "illegal protesting", but were later released.

‘Two contradicting feet’

The country is walking on “two contradicting feet”, says El-Sayyad, seeking to explain both the events after November’s verdict and the current atmosphere.

“Sometimes we say it’s a revolution, which would call for political trials,” he said. But at other times, “people act as if nothing had happened, and put the protesters on trial for demonstrating or storming [the headquarters] of State Security.”

El-Sayyad is confounded by the second type of behaviour, which he sees as contradicting a “history of revolutions”.

“The history of revolutions show that the French who stormed the Bastille [prison] had statues built for them, and that the Germans who stormed the Stasi prison, were asked to manage the building which was turned into a museum,” he says.

In April 2014, the April 6 Youth Movement, one of few groups that voiced criticism of Mubarak during his reign, was declared a “banned group”, with cases filed to declare the group a “terrorist organisation.”

Allegations that the group is receiving funding from abroad, a claim that started during Mubarak’s reign and that they have repeatedly denied, have come back to haunt them.

Ahmed Maher, one of the founders of the April 6 Movement, is currently serving a three-year prison sentence for charges of illegally protesting and using force against the police.

Moreover, activist Alaa Abdel-Fattah, also a vocal critic of Mubarak, was sentenced to five years in prison for charges that include rioting and illegal protesting.

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