Hosni Mubarak To Be Released: Is This What Justice Looks Like in the New Egypt?


A court in Egypt has ordered that Hosni Mubarak, Egypt's longtime leader who was ousted in 2011 and sentenced to life in prison, be possibly set free.

Mubarak's lawyer Fareed El-Deeb told Reuters Monday that a prosecutor cleared the former president on corruption charges, although Mubarak still faces additional charges of corruption as well as a retrial on his complicity in the deaths of protesters during the uprising.

If, in the end, Mubarak is set free, the world will watch closely on how this ruling affects relations between the military and Islamists.

It remains unclear whether the courts ruled independently or if this decision came under the directive of military authorities, but Egypt's ruling generals do have a history of close relationships with the judiciary. In June 2012, as they promised to hand authority to elected leaders, Egypt's ruling generals were planning with one of the nation's top judges to preserve their political power and block the rise of the Islamists.

Tahani el-Gebali, deputy president of the Supreme Constitutional Court, said she advised the generals not to cede authority to civilians until a constitution was written. The Supreme Court then issued a decision that allowed the military to dissolve the first fairly-elected Parliament in Egypt's history and assure that the generals could oversee drafting of a constitution.

These backroom dealings lend credence to those who claim that Mubarak's ousting was a judicial coup and depict the blurred lines between the military and judiciary.

Because of this cozy relationship, the court's decision could appear to some Egyptians as orchestrated by the military.  

For both secular and Islamist Egyptians, the overthrow of Mubarak in 2011 marked the end of three decades of autocratic, undemocratic rule. The two factions served as cautious allies, united against a common enemy.

After the Muslim Brotherhood came to power in the country's first democratic elections, however, relations between secular citizens and Islamists began to deteriorate. Mohammad Morsi, the elected president and leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, consolidated his power and worked to shut out other parties from parliament and government posts.

Many secularists rejoiced at the beginning of June when the military took control from the Muslim Brotherhood, and with the media in the government's control, the Brotherhood is being vilified daily for concocting what the military calls a "terrorist conspiracy" against the state. On state television, anchors read out the news. A constant tag in the corner is written in English: "Egypt Fighting Terrorism."

But the ruling to free Mubarak could lead some secularists to feel betrayed by the military — the same military that played a pivotal role in ousting the former president in the first place.

The likelihood that these secularists support the Muslim Brotherhood, however, is uncertain. A Gallup poll conducted in Egypt two weeks before Morsi was deposed — and before the recent violence — showed that 80% of those interviewed felt the country was worse off than it was when President Mubarak resigned in 2011, and half believed the nation would still be worse off in five years.

It remains to be seen whether the release of Mubarak will anger the pro-military supporters enough to switch allegiances. The Muslim Brotherhood made many enemies while in power, and the Gallup poll indicates that the party may be even less popular than the soon-to-be-released president.