The news item read: “Hussein Salem decided to hand over 75 per cent of his wealth inside Egypt and 55 per cent of his fortune abroad in return for his name being removed from the wanted list and ending the legal pursuit of him and his family.”
To those who don’t know who he is, Salem is one of Egypt's wealthiest businessmen who amassed a staggering fortune during Mubarak’s era. He was the mastermind behind the gas deal between Egypt and Israel that sold Egyptian gas at rock bottom prices. He was also the primary sponsor of the Mubarak regime for three decades, circulating his wealth and funds inside and outside Egypt. Some estimate his fortune at billions of dollars.
The decisions and policies of President Mohamed Morsi and his group never cease to amaze. Under the banner of “conciliation and returning stolen funds," Morsi and his group decided to normalise relations with Mubarak’s regime, its key figures, advocates and policies. It is of little importance that this normalisation comes at the expense of the revolution, its principles and advocates who brought Morsi to power, or that it contradicts the values and morals the Muslim Brotherhood is always flaunting. What is most important is Brotherhood interests and staying in power at any cost.
The alleged conciliation has so far included all the symbols of corruption and tyranny under Mubarak. Those who did not get a reconciliation deal received sentences that are marred by legal distortions and reek of political wheeling and dealing. The pillars of Mubarak’s regime are released, such as former Minister of Informaiton Safwat Al-Sharif who is the boss of political corruption; Zakaria Azmi, former presidential chief of staff and mastermind of the succession scenario; Sameh Fahmy, in charge of economic corruption and financier of the succession campaign; and before them Mubarak’s prime minister, Ahmed Nazif, and Ahmed Fathi Sorour who served as parliament speaker for more than 20 years.
Meanwhile, political activists are being arrested and tortured — most recently Ahmed Maher, founder of April 6 Movement who is one of the true leaders of the January 25 Revolution. Morsi has forgotten that Maher and other revolution leaders were the main reason he reached power. He returned the favour with arrests and detentions before the prosecutor general intervened and released Maher on bail.
But there are dozens like Maher who remain in Morsi’s jails, and those who were not tortured and killed by the bullets of the Ministry of Interior die from neglect and corruption of the bureaucracy that has not changed in the past 10 months, such as train crashes, the Port Said Stadium disaster, and elsewhere.
Since he came to power, Morsi and his group have tried to take control of key positions in the state, such as the army, interior ministry, judiciary and media. When they failed to do so by confrontation, they took an alternative route through normalisation and containment, just as Mubarak did, albeit with lesser intelligence and cunning than him.
Morsi did it with the military when he removed Tantawi and Anan in return for guarantees, privileges and constitutional immunity to the military that is unprecedented in Egypt’s modern history. He did it with the interior ministry when he refused to genuinely reform it, contained its minister, officials and officers by continuously showering them with praise to the extent of considering the police as one of the pillars of the January 25 Revolution, although the revolution primarily targeted the crimes of the ministry and the police.
More recently, and after a stormy confrontation with the judiciary triggered by legislation on the powers of the judiciary, Morsi retreated and decided to tame and constrain the judiciary from within. He appointed Hatem Bagato, the former head of commissioners of the High Constitutional Court, as minister of legal and parliamentary affairs, although Bagato until very recently was an opponent of the Brotherhood and their press and media had scorned him.
Well, Bagato did not disappoint; he began his tenure by praising the constitution written by the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafists which they passed despite objections by many.
The media remains the last institution Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood have failed to contain — at least for now.
Today, negotiations are underway between Morsi and his opponents over the dying body of the revolution, its demands and principles. A few days ago, presidential spokesman Ehab Fahmy welcomed conciliation with figures from the former regime, telling a news conference: “The presidency is not in a feud with anyone, whether politically or economically. This is evident in the presidency’s previous policies of taking steps in the direction of businessmen.”
There is no secret or shame about it, apparently. Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood are in dire need of funds from former officials in order to exit the bottleneck of a stifling economic crisis. Accordingly, they see no problem in overlooking the corruption of these men under the pretext of, “It’s the economy, stupid.”
Of course, there is no objection to recovering the money or reconciling with the economically corrupt. This is the right of the state and burden of those in power. But what about the right of the people? What about political corruption? And the prosecution of the rights of the martyrs? Where is the right of the revolution?
What is even more amazing in all of this is not just selling the revolution in return for wealth, but that there is no criteria or clear vision on the matter of conciliation. No one knows the amount of wealth that would be returned, or who will take it, or how it will be redistributed, or where society’s entitlement is in all this.
Morsi and his group see no problem in sustaining the legal system that protects corruption and corruptors without change, just like all other pending issues. It provides them with a cover that permits conciliation, manoeuvring and making deals, and takes away the burden of criticism and blame.
The Conciliation Law was written and passed under the rule of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) under the nose of the Muslim Brotherhood, which controlled parliament at the time. Morsi could have changed the law if he wanted after he came to power or at least proposed a debate and discussion on it with other social and political forces, so everyone would be aware of the terms, conditions and ceiling for conciliation.
Even worse are statements by Mustafa Al-Husseini, the first attorney general for public funds, who said: “Egypt has not recovered a single penny since the revolution and for an entire two years.” This means we are talking about conciliation without payment and selling the revolution in return for nothing.
Nevermind the billions of dollars that were stolen from the Egyptian people over the past decades, making foreign debt reach $34 billion just before the revolution. What about the political crimes committed by figures in the former regime, such as Al-Sharif, Azmi, Fahmy, Sorour and first and foremost Mubarak and his sons? What about the oppression and violence and murders of politicians (including the Muslim Brotherhood) and revolutionaries in which all these men were complicit, if not criminally then politically?
Even if Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood want to relinquish their rights with the former regime and normalise relations with it, they have no right to force others to accept this. There is no statute of limitation on rights, and true revolutions do not normalise.