The former president of Egypt – Hosni Mubarak, was elected bureaucratically in 1981 after the assassination of President Anwar El Sadat. Mubarak was vice president at the time. There were no democratic elections, and Mubarak became president by default.
During his time in presidency Mubarak had an authoritarian style that used prosecution and torture as weapons to suppress the citizens of Egypt; instil fear, and restrict any fundamental rights that would undermine his presidency and government. Freedom of speech was condemned under the regime of Mubarak, but the rapid emergence of satellite television and internet paved the way for bloggers, writers and citizens to speak their mind on the state of the country. The awareness of the free media helped to break the barrier of fear; more people became courageous enough to stand up against the government. This led to the formation of anti-government groups and protests; Mubarak’s state security was therefore exposed to the rest of the world.
During his time in presidency Mubarak had an authoritarian style which used prosecution and torture as weapons…
The monumental occasion that led to Mubarak’s downfall was the Tunisian revolution: it gave the people of Egypt hope, and showed them that they too, possessed the ability to overthrow Mubarak’s dictatorship. Egyptian people engaged in outbursts of protests over 18 days, and Mubarak was consequently ousted. Resigning, the ‘Supreme Council of The Armed Forces’ therefore gained control over Egypt. As soon as the announcement was made, the Egyptian people engaged in celebrations of victory all over Egypt. A statement was released by the public prosecutor in 2011 stating that: ‘Mubarak and his family are not above the law or criminal accountability’. Mubarak was essentially overpowered by the voice of his own people; he was the first Arab leader to be put on trial by his own people. This is highly commendable, symbolising that everyone is criminally accountable.
A timeline of key events in the trial
On 13 April 2011, the prosecution launched their investigations into his involvement in the massacre of protesters during the 18 days; Mubarak was detained for 30 days. The corruption and complicit charges were moved up to the criminal court on 23 May 2011.
The trial began on 3 August 2011, and it consisted of 46 sessions. Video footage of the demonstrations was used as evidence, along with statements from state security. Mubarak could be seen looking helpless on a journey inside the cage – in court – and it was widely suspected that this was an act to gain sympathy. A good attempt; but given the events that had occurred under Mubarak’s military regime, not many were willing to entertain this behaviour. During the first session, he was charged with ordering the killing of nearly 800 protesters during the demonstrations that led to him being ousted. He was also charged with receiving bribes. On 4 August 2011, the prosecution presented their evidence, and the defence was allowed ten days to review it.
During the eighth session on the 8 September 2011, a police officer named Essam Shawky confessed that there were orders to use excessive force. On 15 September 2011, in the 12th session, the ex-president Mubarak denied the charges of ordering to kill the protesters.
He was charged with a series of offences including corruption, profiteering, and accepting bribes.
In June 2012, Mubarak was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison and was escorted to Torah. To be more specific though, he was in the Torah hospital prison that had been modified for his ‘medical conditions’ (that have never been disclosed to the public – there has only been mere speculations – making the severity of his illness questionable).
In January 2013 Mubarak was questioned about gifts worth £18 million that the state newspaper had supposedly given him as a sign of allegiance while he was President. There have been other senior figures who did not receive imprisonment once they had repaid the proceeds of bribery. Mubarak has paid off the £18 million and on that basis, it has been suggested as a supporting reason not to imprison Mubarak. The judge overturned the decision though, with the reasoning that there wasn’t sufficient evidence to show that Mubarak was accountable for the deaths in the demonstrations. In April the retrial was opened, and additional investigations into the misuse of state funds commenced.
In August 2013, the time limit for detention was reached; there no longer being a legitimate reason to imprison Mubarak. He had served the full time for pre-trial detention, and this made him eligible to be released. As from 19 August 2013 therefore, Mubarak was partially free again. He was released pending the trial on the state funds, complicity in the killing of the protests, and gifts that he allegedly received from the newspaper. To date he has been ordered to house arrest in accordance with emergency law. Upon being released, Mubarak was pictured lying back comfortably on his journey, with a cheeky smile. It was as if he knew at that moment, that he had got away with murder – literally.
There is no way that Mubarak can ever regain political power, but the timing of his release came at the worst time.
There is no way that Mubarak can ever regain political power, but the timing of his release came at the worst time. The country is struggling to control the imbalance between the legislature and executive – the most stable branch is the judiciary. The release of Mubarak has only added to the crisis, and from that perspective, it is difficult to see the retrial of Mubarak being dealt with, anytime soon. It has also caused frustration amongst protesters that the effort and sacrifice they expended in gaining justice, may have been for nothing, especially if Mubarak is acquitted of his charges. In essence, the Tahrir Square revolution has been negated. The trial has been postponed until 14 September 2013. The judicial authority made its best efforts to reassure people that there will be justice: they stated that the charges against Mubarak have not been completely acquitted. This gave some hope to the victims and families of those that were involved in the protests; that there is still a chance that he will return to prison.
Mubarak may not have directly killed the protesters, but on the balance of probability, he should have known that the demonstrations would result in deaths. The Tunisian revolution had resulted in a substantial amount of deaths, and the Egyptian protests had followed soon after. Mubarak had adequate forewarning and should have used his authority to fulfil his duty to prevent such an outcome.
As it stands President Mohamed Morsi – who was democratically elected after Mubarak – has been ousted, the ex-dictator Mubarak has been released, and now Egypt is back under military regime.