The latest news from Cairo is that ousted president Hosni Mubarak is to face
trial all over again, both on charges on which he was acquitted a year ago
(corruption) and on those he was convicted on (the killing of demonstrators).
The retrial was ordered speedily, even strangely, by the standards of Western
Nothing about it is clear and nobody can reliably
interpret what happened. It could be presented as a legal victory for Mubarak.
At the same time, it might well be another vindictive move to distract the
public from its daily woes and from the undeniable failings of the new
administration. The latter is the likelier explanation.
It is less
plausible that the elderly and ill Mubarak won a court battle and that the
Egyptian legal establishment gave him an even break in defiance of the country’s
new Muslim overlords, whose antagonism to Mubarak is no secret. Egypt’s
judiciary was never independent of government manipulation and is less likely
now than ever to take on the powers that be.
The Muslim Brotherhood
regime under Mohamed Morsi had altogether stifled the courts by pronouncing
Morsi immune from judicial scrutiny. Morsi handily won a referendum on the
Mubarak’s first trial (despite its mixed verdict and life
imprisonment instead of capital punishment) bore all the hallmarks of a show
trial, which serves the propaganda purposes of the rulers, is geared to
intimidate would-be dissidents and whose verdict and retributive sentences have
The odds are that we are in for another show trial,
more entertainment for the masses and more fodder for the mob. Egypt will be
hurled back to the trauma of two years ago and its new leaders probably hope
that this will ease the pressure on them.
The international community
does not seem to care. Although they once honored and feted Mubarak, world
leaders abruptly changed tack, branded him a tyrannical ogre and cheered his
opponents as harbingers of the “Arab Spring.” The truth is that while hardly a
democratic paragon, Mubarak was not the worst of Mideastern
Furthermore, Morsi, who has officially put himself above the
law, has seen demonstrators killed under his watch as well. Then there are his
radical Muslim proclivities, including his recently disclosed past comments
where he exhorted his compatriots to “nurse our children and our grandchildren
on hatred.” Elsewhere, he depicted Jews and Zionists as “bloodsuckers” and as
“the descendants of apes and pigs.”
The so-called “Arab Spring” has
evolved into something that ought to trouble the free world deeply and not be
put out of mind and off the global agenda. It is not Mubarak’s fate that is
important here but the rubber-stamp decisions produced by judges, in all
probability after behind-the-scenes collusion between the Muslim Brotherhood and
Egypt’s still potent military establishment. The latter remain a factor to be
reckoned with even if its aging top echelon has been been sacrificed.
revolution did not change what was amiss in Egypt. Under Mubarak, the judges did
Under Morsi and his new constitution, the judges have
resumed obeying orders from above.
The more things change the more they
stay the same, regardless of the gross misperceptions and mesmerized wishful
thinking in Western Europe and America. Politicians with axes to grind,
academicians and opinion-molders appear to believe that democracy can be
But democracy is not defined by screaming throngs in
the streets – vehement protests can be readily orchestrated by anti-democratic
agitators. Democracy is not solely defined by elections – many a despot has
taken power apparently via the ballot box. Democracy is a far more complex
composite, which includes an unbridled critical press, fearless free expression
and – foremost – protecting the lot, a truly autonomous judiciary.
Obama administration and the EU appear to have been ignored all this in their
alacrity to embrace Morsi. The Mubarak retrial constitutes another reminder that
we have reason to worry.