Former Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak had all charges against him dropped by Egypt’s Cairo criminal court this week. Mubarak was being tired on charges of the unlawful, premeditated murder of protestors involved in the 2011 Egyptian protests as well as corruption charges, ranging from misuse of influence to misusing public funds for personal profit. Mubarak had already been tried on charges of deliberately harming the Egyptian economy as a result of his cutting off telephone and internet services in the country during the protests and had been ordered to pay a fine of $33.6 million from his private assets. Mubarak now faced the murder charges which, if convicted, could have had him face the death penalty.
Important to note here that Mubarak was not simply acquitted of his charges, relieving him of any wrongdoing. The charges, instead, were thrown out of court on a legal technicality by the Egyptian court without a decision, a clearly politically-motivated move. The judge in Mubarak’s case dismissed the charges on the grounds that Mubarak was added as a co-defendent to the trials already taking place over the murder of protesters too late, implying that “there were no grounds for criminal proceedings” against him. Originally, the public prosector in Egypt had indicted only Mubarak’s senior assistants and only added Mubarak himself to the case when he faced increased pressure from more public protests to hold Mubarak accountable as well.
Obviously, while I am usually fascinated by the ins and outs of ongoing legal trials, especially high-profile ones such as these, the important part of this story is not the legal minutia. Here, a violent dictator has had his charges dropped in what is obviously an intensely political move, despite the Egyptian judge’s assurances to the contrary, that signals a major step backward for Egypt and a shift back to the political corruption that incited the initial revolution that ousted Mubarak. Mubarak’s initial charges were hastily brought in a mood of revolutionary fervor that had swept across the nation in one of the most impressive displays of revolutions for peace and democracy in the Middle East in recent history. However, now that much of these emotions have settled and the passions of the protestors have cooled, the outcome which many outsiders looking into this revolution feared—a return to a brutish dictatorship—is beginning to take hold once again. Egypt went through many phases and many leaders during its revolution, but it has now landed back to a regime that is strikingly similar to Mubarak’s with President Abdel Fatah el-Sisi.
Peace and democracy are difficult values to cement into a society, even when you have as many and as passionate protestors as in the 2011 Egyptian Revolution. People can only endure so much fighting and so much protesting until their will becomes weak. This is the state of Egypt today. It remains to be seen if we can hope for another strengthened call for democracy after so many disappointments.