Saturday, 2 June 2012

Mubarak used as scapegoat by own regime

Former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak was sentenced to life imprisonment on Saturday morning. The court in Cairo ruled that the ex-dictator is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of demonstrators during the eighteen-day uprising against his regime.

Tension was running high in Cairo in the hours leading up to the verdict. From my balcony in Doqqi the live stream of the court proceedings could be heard from all directions. The whole of Egypt seemed to be glued to either radio or television to witness this historic moment.

The verdict was cleverly worded, as the judge spent the first fifteen minutes praising the "brave" Egyptians' revolt against the "thirty years of darkness" of the old regime, and expressed his hope for a better future" for the country.
He then handed down life sentences for Mubarak and his former Interior Minister Habib Al-Adly. In the euphoria that erupted following that ruling, the acquittal of the other defendants - his sons, Alaa and Gamal, and six other main characters from the Mubarak regime - got temporarily ignored.

It took a while for the reality of the verdict to dawn. Mubarak and Al-Adly were merely convicted for being politically responsible for the deaths of hundreds of protesters, they are explicitly not convicted for aiding and abetting the killing of demonstrators. They failed to stop the killings, yet they had no hand in them. That leaves the verdict as quite hollow.

Seeing that Mubarak's and Al-Adly's aides were all acquitted, they can technically go back to work tomorrow, leaving the old regime intact and fully functional. The fact that there didn't seem to be enough evidence to convict their henchmen leaves the door for acquittal of both Al-Adly and Mubarak at an appeal wide open. And Mubarak's lawyer has of course already stated the ex-dictator will be appealing the verdict.

The duo seems to have been used only as a temporary scapegoat to spare the rest of the regime. In an attempt to keep the Egyptian people calm heads had to roll. Mubarak has already been sidelined by his faltering health, making it fairly easy to sacrifice him.

Is this justice for the 'martyrs of the revolution'? The Muslim Brotherhood doesn't seem to think so and has already called for a retrial for all involved.

An even more important question might be: what will the effect of this verdict be when Egyptians go to the polls again in just a little over two weeks? Does this rule in favor of Ahmed Shafiq, one of two contenders for the presidency of Egypt? He was the last prime minister under Mubarak and is generally seen as someone who will follow in the footsteps of the old regime.

Will Mubarak being labelled as 'guilty' have a detrimental effect on Shafiq's chances of becoming the first democratically elected president of Egypt because voters will not want to have anything to do with any remnants of the old regime?

Or will the verdict solidify the notion that the revolution has failed and strengthen people in their belief that choosing the old regime will be the better option, as everything will then hopefully go back to the way it was before?

At the time of writing Tahrir Square, centre of the revolution, is slowly but steadily filling up with protesters. Again, it's looking to be an interesting next few days in Cairo.

NB This is a quick and quite possibly fairly sloppy translation of a piece I wrote in Dutch, which can be read here

No comments:

Post a Comment