As the trial of Egypt's former president Hosni Mubarak dragged on for more than two years, the convoluted legal process has caused considerable confusion over the fate of the longtime autocrat who ruled Egypt for three decades and was swept away from office by the 18-day popular uprising in 2011.
Ahram Online translates from Arabic and publishes the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) Q&A that spells out the legal status of the former ruler.
Q: What cases have been brought against Mubarak?
A: He faces charges in four separated cases:
1- The killing of protesters during the 2011 uprising, abuse of power and profiteering from exporting gas to Israel at below market value
2- Illicit gains (accumulating vast wealth disproportionate with his income)
3- Presidential palace case (appropriating for his family funds allocated annually for upkeep of presidential palaces)
4- Receipt of gifts from state-run press institution Al-Ahram
Q: Did he receive any sentence in any of the four cases?
A: All corruption cases (the illicit gains, presidential palace and the Ahram gift cases) are still ongoing. He has yet to be convicted or cleared.
In the murder of protesters case, he was sentenced to life in jail on 2 June 2012, but the court overturned the sentence on an appeal on 23 June 2013 and granted him a retrial, which is still in progress.
Q: Is Mubarak serving pre-trail detention on other charges?
A: No. his lawyer successfully argued that he has spent the maximum time in prison under pre-trial detention (2 years) in the killing of protesters case. He was ordered released on the charges on 15 April 2013. He remained in jail, though, since he faced other corruption charges.
On 20 June 2012, a court ruling ordered his release pending investigations on allegations of illicit gains.
On 19 August 2013, he was granted a release in the presidential palaces case. His sons – Alaa and Gamal Mubarak, who were accused in the same case – remained in jail, however.
He continued to serve preventive detention pending investigation into the Al-Ahram gifts case. The president has recently reimbursed money equivalent to the value of the gift. On Wednesday, 21 August, a court upheld a petition from his lawyer demanding the release.
Q: Does this mean he will be set free?
A: Yes. Now he does not serve any pre-trial detention.
Q: Does his conditional release mean he will not be remanded in custody again?
A: No. Investigative bodies can renew his temporary detention unless he has already served the maximum pre-trial prison time, as is the case on allegations of the death of protesters.
Q: Why did the trial drag on for two years?
Egyptian law does not limit the length of a trial. It merely sets the maximum pre-trial prison time.
Q: Do prosecutors play any role in prolonging the legal process?
A: Certainly. Public prosecution is responsible for proceeding with the cases and providing corroborating evidence. Prosecutors had been dragging their feet over levelling accusations at Mubarak. The then-prosecutor general Abdel Meguid Mahmoud only ordered for investigations to start two months after Mubarak's ouster in February 2011 and only following massive street pressure.
A large number of citizens have filed numerous reports with sufficient evidence, but prosecution pressed ahead without considering such reports.
Acting on behalf of plaintiffs in the deaths of protesters trial, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) had documented poor investigations marred by scant evidence, leading to a weak verdict and a subsequent successful appeal.
Q: Did the state apparatus play any role in the investigation process?
In the murder of protesters trial, state bodies were not of assistance to the prosecutors. State intelligence provided the public prosecution with blank tapes, void of any evidence. Other video tapes recorded during the 18-day uprising in February were 'wiped by accident.' Police also damaged a significant exhibit of a CD of all incoming and outgoing calls from the central security operation room.
Q: Will the current political turmoil affect the course of justice?
A: The judge rules according to the official documents he has at his disposal – not on a personal footing.
Following the overthrow of the Muslim Brotherhood, Mubarak's attorneys are expected to divert murder charges onto Brotherhood leaders now in custody after testimonies in the trail of Wadi Al-Natroun jail break (in which ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, along with a number of Brotherhood top leaders broke out of jail). They are expected to try to prove that protesters during the 2011 uprising were killed by "foreign elements" in collaboration with the Muslim Brotherhood.
This matches testimony given during the Mubarak trial of his ex-vice president, Omar Suleiman.
Q: When would the trail of the murder of protesters resume?
A: The next hearing is scheduled for 25 August. Mubarak must attend even if he has been released.