Hosni Mubarak, Egypt’s ousted president, is a mere symbol of the past. He’s never represented a threat to the new regime considering he has no social power and no real political movement.
His political career died in February 2011, even before his detention, as the result of opposing powers’ consensus against him, beginning with the military institution. His exit was final and no one was even under the illusion that he could return to power. This is why there were expectations that he would be released as soon as he was arrested. However, he remained in detention and he might die in jail if the court does not approve his release, along with the release of his two sons.
Mubarak was an authoritarian, stubborn and deceitful man but he wasn’t blood-thirstyAbdulrahman al-Rashed
Even during the popular movement to have him tried, there were voices urging political reconciliation during the period of transitional governance. However, at the time they said there must be a legitimate president to decide that. But when Egypt’s first elected President Mohammad Mursi came to power, the decision was the other way around. Instead of granting general amnesty and launching a new era devoid of vengeance and opening the door to reconciliation, Mursi rejected these calls and only pardoned detainees from among his party, the Muslim Brotherhood. Mursi’s rule, which lasted for one year, was focused on the struggle to control the judiciary and the general prosecution. His time in power was also marred with the pursuing of rivals in the judiciary and security fields. As a result, Mursi’s regime collapsed, exhausted by the rivalries it accumulated and preoccupied with enmities instead of running the state’s affairs.
It’s only natural
It’s natural for a faction of Egyptians to condemn the acquittal of Mubarak and to condemn his release and it’s also natural for another faction to reject his continued detention because the struggle is over the recent history and what it means of legitimacy or of depriving of it.
However, the question is not whether to exonerate him or release him but why Mubarak was detained in the first place when he announced that he would step down and that he did not wish to defy revolutionaries after the army turned against him. Why are we asking such questions when his prompt exit prevented the country from sliding into chaos?
Most regimes which began their eras with reprisals failed to achieve stability in the long run. This has been the case since the French to the Bolshevik revolutions to the Arab military coups. The most recent case is the fighting in Iraq which came as a result of the eradication of former President Saddam Hussein and those who stood beside him. Nelson Mandela, however, was not only able to remove the white fascist racial regime in South Africa, but he was also able to achieve something greater and that is co-existence among different social categories by sending guilty individuals to a court where they confessed to their crimes and apologized. Mursi, who pursued Mubarak’s regime, made it easy for his rivals and competitors to do the same to him during the second revolution. I think that his only concern was vengeance during his time as president and this is what destroyed the Brotherhood’s rule.
Living to see freedom
It is not likely that Mubarak will live long to enjoy his freedom if he is released. This is because he has been sick since the last decade and his long-term illness led, in part, to the collapse of the state which was centered around him and his son Gamal. He was a stupid dictator but he wasn’t a bloody man as the rumors dictate. His stupidity lay in his inability to realize the historical moments which he could have seized to take Egypt towards a democratic civil regime to immortalize his name and achieve what three presidents before him failed to achieve. His approval of the system of presidential elections instead of the referendum came late in 2005 and it came as a result of Western pressures against him. He then circumvented this system by eliminating opponents and forging results to remain in power and the revolution against him was thus a possible result.
Mubarak was an authoritarian, stubborn and deceitful man but he wasn’t blood-thirsty as other men have been across the region. The continued trials are simply a sign that the political situation in the country has been disturbed and Egyptian society will tire without reconciliation.
This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on December 2, 2014.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.