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Opinion: Mubarak's Trial and Mursi's Legacy - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Hosni Mubarak, Egypt’s ousted president, is a mere symbol of the past. He’s never represented a threat to the new regime because he has no influence over society and no political movement behind him.

His political career died in February 2011, even before his detention, as the result of the consensus against him among his opponents, especially the military. His exit was final, and nobody was ever under the illusion that he ever could return to power. This is why there were expectations that he would be released as soon as he was arrested. However, he remained in detention and he might die in jail if the court does not approve his release, along with the release of his two sons.

Even at the height of the public demands for him to be put on trial, there were voices urging political reconciliation during the period of political transition. However, at the time they also said that only a legitimately elected president could make that decision. When Egypt’s first elected president, Mohamed Mursi, came to power, his decision was different. Instead of declaring a general amnesty and launching a new era devoid of vengeance and opening the door to reconciliation, Mursi rejected these calls and only pardoned detainees from among his own movement, the Muslim Brotherhood. Mursi’s rule, which lasted for one year, was focused on the struggle to control the judiciary and state prosecutors. His time in power was also marred by the pursuit of rivals in the judiciary and security services. As a result, Mursi’s regime collapsed, exhausted as it was by the rivalries it accumulated and its preoccupation with enemies, which all came at the expense of running the state’s affairs.

It is natural for a faction of Egyptians to condemn the acquittal of Mubarak and to condemn his release. It is also natural for another faction to reject his continued detention, because the struggle is one for Egypt’s recent history, and the power to confer political legitimacy or deprive others of it.

However, the question is not one of exonerating Mubarak or releasing him. The more relevant question is why Mubarak was detained in the first place when he announced that he would step down and made clear he had no intention of defying the revolutionaries after the army turned against him. In any case, why are we asking such questions when his prompt exit prevented the country from sliding into chaos?

Most regimes which begin their rule with reprisals fail to achieve stability in the long run. This has always been the case, from the the French and Russian revolutions to the Arab military coups. The most recent case is the fighting in Iraq, which came as a result of the eradication of former president Saddam Hussein and those who stood beside him. Nelson Mandela, however, was not only able to remove the white racist regime in South Africa, but was also able to achieve something greater: coexistence among different social groups. This he achieved by sending guilty individuals before a tribunal where they confessed to their crimes and apologized. Mursi, who pursued members of Mubarak’s regime, made it easy for his rivals and competitors to do the same to him during the second revolution of June 30, 2013, which ousted him from power. I think that his only concern was vengeance during his time as president, and this is what ultimately destroyed the Brotherhood’s rule.

It is not likely that Mubarak will live long enough to enjoy his freedom if he is released. This is because he has been sick for much of the last decade, and his long-term illness led in part to the collapse of the state that was centered on him and his son Gamal. He was an incompetent dictator, but he wasn’t as brutal as the rumors contend. His stupidity lay in his inability to realize the historic opportunities he could have seized to take Egypt towards a democratic civil regime and immortalize his name and succeed where his three predecessors had failed. His decision to allow presidential elections in 2005 came as a result of Western pressure. He subsequently subverted the polls by undermining his opponents and forging results to remain in power, and the revolution against him was thus a possible result of this.

Mubarak was an authoritarian, stubborn, and deceitful man, but he wasn’t as bloodthirsty as other men have been across the region. His trial is simply a sign that the political situation in the country has been disturbed, and that Egyptian society will continue to carry a terrible burden without reconciliation.

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is the former general manager of Al-Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine Al-Majalla. He is also a senior columnist in the daily newspapers Al-Madina and Al-Bilad. He has a US post-graduate degree in mass communications, and has been a guest on many TV current affairs programs. He is currently based in Dubai.

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