Hosni Mubarak Retrial Suspended: Does Egypt Have Buyer's Regret Over Morsi?


The smirk on Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's face was unmistakable. He sat up and waved from his courtroom cage during his retrial in Egyptian court earlier Saturday, shortly before the judge recused himself from the case because of "unease" and conflict of interest. 

Unlike the hawkishly watched first trial in August 2011 of Mubarak, the first Arab leader overthrown by his own people, the negative reaction to this again-delayed justice was limited to the court. Nowadays, Egyptians are far more preoccupied by the chaos caused by current President Morsi's struggle to unite a democratic Egypt.

"At least in [Mubarak's] days, we had food and security ... Now we have neither." Cairo taxi driver Mohammad Sadiq isn't the only one to long for Mubarak, who has been recently viewed as "a hero who quit power in order to spare his people civil war" in the Arabic press. Mubarak's profile has been rehabilitated due to Morsi's inability to bring the Egyptian people together. 

Mubarak's consequent confidence was on display in court, even as the charges against him of authorizing killings of protesters towards the end of his term were about to be argued for a second time. Mubarak appeared disinterested and amused by the goings on of the proceedings that erupted into chaos after the judge's recusal, even sitting up and waving at the crowd from his courtroom cage in his dark brown sunglasses.

As New York Times' David D. Kirkpatrick and Mayy El Shaikh report, Egyptian news media is not giving the trial frenzied attention like it did for the first Mubarak trial as it finds itself preoccupied by the "shortages of diesel fuel, worries about critical supplies of wheat and subsidized bread, and Mr. Morsi’s negotiations with international lenders for desperately needed financial support."

Added to these macro issues, President Morsi's cantankerously low approval ratings are not being helped by stories like this leaked report claiming the Egyptian military ordered doctors to operate on injured protesters without the use of anesthetics. The military has already been facing scrutiny and criticism from the public over reports of torture, malpractice, and forced disappearances of protesters, developing a reputation for the Morsi government of being even harsher to democratic protesters than Mubarak. 

Aside from dealing with these issues and battling secular-leaning groups, Morsi has been playing damage control by trying to deflect the blame of the current socioeconomic crises on the previous administration. Morsi recently tweeted that Mubarak's "corruption legacy is heavy" in the same week that fresh corruption charges were brought against Mubarak

Nonetheless, the momentum seems to favor Mubarak, and Morsi will have to do something short of a miracle to revamp his government's image. Ghada Shahbandar, a lawyer and member of the Board of the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights, summarized the shift in Egyptians' focus in the context of Hossam Mustafa, a political activist who slapped a prosecutor and is being sentenced two years in prison as a result. She says that she is "much more concerned about this young man who has been sentenced to two years in prison because he reddened the cheeks of a prosecutor ... At this moment, Mubarak is totally irrelevant."