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Egypt’s endless saga: What next for Hosni Mubarak’s sons?

Sonia Farid

Published: Updated:

On September 15, the Cairo Criminal Court ordered the arrest and detention of Gamal and Alaa Mubarak, sons of ousted president Hosni Mubarak, in relation to the case known as “stock market manipulation,” in which they are accused of acquiring majority shares in several banks through front companies without notifying the stock market.

After spending five days in detention, the Mubaraks were both released on bail and the hearing is scheduled for October 20. While this is not the first time Gamal and Alaa face charges, are arrested and detained, or do time in jail, the case known as the “presidential palaces” being the most prominent example, this time seems quite different whether in terms of timing or given the fact that the case was taking its normal course anyway.

The latest arrest order was particularly issued in relation to the sale of the Egyptian al-Watani Bank to the National Bank of Kuwait. An experts committee was formed and the report it issued, submitted to court in July, concluded that the defendants did not make illicit gains from the deal.

The court, however, said the report was incomplete, a claim denied by the Muabarks’ defense team. The team also argued that arresting and detaining the defendants was unnecessary in the light of the travel ban imposed on them, their regular attendance of court sessions, and the fact that they didn’t change residence.

‘Too present’

Commenting on the arrest, journalist Yasser Rizq argued that Gamal Mubarak is the main cause of the January 2011 uprising. “It was the possibility of the bequest of power that drove people to stage a revolution,” he said. Rizq added that both Gamal and Alaa have had “too much presence” lately, which raises question marks about their intentions, particularly Gamal’s plans to run for president.

“I am actually concerned that he might be in cahoots with the Muslim Brotherhood and that they would try to strike some deal that allows them both back to power,” he added. Rizq also noted that Gamal Mubarak’s violations should have taken him to a political rather than a criminal trial and that he should be thankful for his current situation.

“Gamal Mubarak tried to stage a coup to turn Egypt from a presidential state to a monarchy, hence violating the constitution and going against the will of the Egyptian people.”

By “too much presence,” Rizq referred to recent public appearances such performing the dawn prayers at al-Hussein Mosque, one of the most popular, in Fatimid Cairo, frequenting cafés in several working class neighborhoods, attending football games, and paying condolences at a couple of funerals. In all those appearances, the brothers were warmly greeted by the people who made sure they take selfies with them.

Alaa Mubarak has also been posting tweets that criticize pro-regime media professionals, who he accused of “misleading people” and “fabricating false news.” When asked by one of his followers whether he is considering taking part in the political scene, he hinted that all the charges against him and his brother mainly aim at making this impossible: “I got a three-year sentence in the presidential palaces case and now the stock market manipulation case keeps dragging on forever. How can I possibility have any political activities?”

He also commented on Rizq’s claims about an imminent deal with the Muslim Brotherhood: “These claims are pure nonsense and demonstrate utter superficiality and lack of vision,” he wrote.

The arrest of the Mubaraks can also be attributed to the state’s tendency towards settlement through dropping the charges in return for money as was the case with several senior officials in the Mubarak regime and then pro-regime businessmen.

According to lawyer Ali Ayoub, settlement is the only way the state can get back the money plundered through corruption during the Mubarak era. “Also, imprisoning people like Gamal and Alaa Mubarak will be of no use to anyone, so better benefit from the settlement option,” he said. Ayoub explained that several financial charges can be dropped through settlement such as squandering public funds, embezzlement, and theft.

“Such settlements support the Egyptian economy to a great extent, yet can, at the same time, encourage corruption as transgressors can count on paying money in case their crimes are exposed.”

It is noteworthy that the arrest and detention of Gamal and Alaa Mubarak had a negative impact on the Egyptian economy as Egypt’s main stock index dropped by 3.6% as a result.

However, it is important to take into consideration that the court rejected on September 22 a request for settlement submitted by the brothers’ defense, which means they are to be deprived of practicing their political rights—voting or running—for six years.

According to constitutional expert Fouad Abdel Nabi, the court’s decision was final and cannot be appealed by the defendants. “The only way this can be reversed is through another court ruling that absolves the defendants from the charges for which they were initially penalized.”