Cairo, Egypt – Although Hosni Mubarak’s release from prison has long been predicted by Egypt’s young revolutionaries, his freeing last Thursday reminded them that their 2011 revolt, which ended almost three decades of his rule, remains incomplete.
Many Egyptians place the blame for Mubarak’s release on his successor Mohamed Morsi, who was deposed by the army on July 3 and whose supporters still take to the streets calling for his reinstatement, despite the brutal crackdown by security forces that has left more than 1,200 people dead.
“It’s a slap on the face,” Wael Khalil, a leftist activist and blogger who was active in the 2011 uprising, told Al Jazeera of Mubarak’s release. “The slogan of ‘The Revolution Continues’ is not a cliche – the regime has not been touched.”
The 85-year-old Mubarak, toppled following 18 days of mass protests in 2011, is still on trial for corruption and complicity in the killing of protesters who sought his ouster. He was released from prison after spending more than two years in pre-trial detention, the maximum allowed by Egyptian law, and is now under house arrest. He appeared in court on Sunday, and his trial will resume on September 14.
Since his ouster, Mubarak along with his sons, ministers and members of his now-suspended National Democratic Party have faced scores of charges ranging from corruption to involvement in the killing of more than 800 protesters during the 2011 uprising.
Most of these cases have ended with acquittals or settlements – a plausible option for at least one of Mubarak’s ongoing corruption cases.
Khalil, who in 2012 declined to join Morsi’s team of advisors, said “one of Morsi’s few applauded decisions was the formation of a fact-finding committee to provide new evidence to bolster these cases, but the committee’s report was shelved and forgotten”.
Mubarak’s release comes as the country has been hit by its worst wave of violence in decades, in the wake of Morsi’s overthrow in July and the subsequent crackdown on mass protests seeking his return to power. In response to the demonstrations, the army-backed government has issued a month-long state of emergency and a daily curfew.
“Looking at the charges [Mubarak] was facing, it was evident from day one that it wasn’t done properly,” said Khalil of the court case. “Rather than being tried for political corruption and all the damage he’s caused the country over 30 years, he’s facing charges of receiving gifts from state-run dailies and other less significant issues.”
Mubarak’s last trials were on charges of allegedly receiving $11m worth of gifts from state-run Al-Ahram newspaper and embezzling money from a fund allocated for the restoration of presidential palaces.
Mubarak and Morsi
Before his release, Mubarak was held at Cairo’s Tora Prison, where he was recently joined by several Muslim Brotherhood leaders who had operated underground during his rule. Upon Mubarak’s release, state-run television showed him being transported by a medical helicopter from the prison to a military hospital in Cairo’s Maadi suburb where he had stayed for most of the past two years, to be held under house arrest pending trial.
Meanwhile, since July 3, when army chief General Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi announced a political roadmap including early presidential elections, Morsi has been kept at an undisclosed location and has not appeared in public.
Morsi’s supporters have claimed that remnants of his predecessor’s regime conspired for Morsi’s ouster, citing the participation of Mubarak supporters in the mass June 30 rallies calling for Morsi’s downfall. In these protests police officers, against whom the 2011 uprising was initially staged, were occasionally lifted on the shoulders of participants.
Among those who campaigned for Morsi during the presidential election in 2012 was the April 6 Youth Movement, which orchestrated the mass protests against Mubarak. But just one year later, they began collecting votes for a grassroots petition calling for the elected president to step down.
On its Facebook page, the April 6 Youth Movement described Mubarak’s release as a “victory for poverty, illiteracy and tyranny. It’s the culmination of a process of failure and the deviation of the revolution which succeeded in deposing him.”
“Wait for us soon in the streets to protect our revolution, which thousands of our noble martyrs have sacrificed themselves for,” the statement read, promising “the poor and the abused, for whom January 25 has taken place – we will not let you down”.
It also called for a rally last Friday against Mubarak’s discharge, only to be cancelled later because it would have overlapped with protests held by Morsi supporters against the crackdown and the arrest of Muslim Brotherhood leaders. The movement said it would study the “appropriate response” to Mubarak’s release, while stressing that protests would not be used “in the interest of those mobilising for the return of Morsi, which is something we totally reject”.
Similarly, the National Salvation Front, a secular-liberal group, cancelled protests it had called for to denounce the release of the ousted president. Ahmed al-Hawary, the group’s spokesperson as well as a member of the Dustour Party and the June 30 Coalition, said the discharge “was no surprise, but had the same angering effect”.
Hawary added that the prosecutors since Mubarak’s ouster “had done the worst possible” with regards to holding his regime accountable. “The first allowed for evidence to be lost, while the second was busy chasing revolutionaries rather than presenting new proofs,” he said, adding that protests have been postponed for the time being due to the ongoing power struggle between the army and the Muslim Brotherhood.
“Mubarak’s release is an insult to martyrs’ blood and to Egyptians. It won’t go by unchallenged,” he said.