Analysis: The uncertain prospects of Mubarak’s release

Revolutionary youths unlikely to stay mum if ousted leader freed.

Former Egyptian president Mubarak in court 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/Egypt TV)
Former Egyptian president Mubarak in court 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Egypt TV)
An Egyptian court will review a petition on Wednesday for the release of deposed president Hosni Mubarak, judicial sources said, meaning he could leave prison as the legal grounds for his detention crumble.
The court will convene at the Cairo prison where Mubarak is being held, the sources said.
Fareed el-Deeb, the lawyer who filed the petition, said on Monday he expected his client to be freed this week after a court ordered his release in one of the remaining corruption cases against him.
Mubarak, 85, was sentenced to life in prison last year for failing to stop the killing of protesters during the uprising against him in 2011. But the appeals court accepted his appeal in January and ordered a retrial.
He is being retried on those charges, but has served the maximum amount of pretrial detention permitted in the case.
The last remaining corruption case relates to allegations that Mubarak received gifts from a state-run publisher. However, his family has paid back the value of the alleged gifts, strengthening Deeb’s confidence that he will be released.
Eric Trager, an Egypt expert and fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, stated to The Jerusalem Post that it is still uncertain whether Mubarak will be released, and “only his lawyer is asserting that this is imminent.”
“But if Mubarak is released, you should expect a reaction from the revolutionary youths whose protests sparked the 2011 uprising,” said Trager.
He added that even though they make up a small part of the population, “their ability to mobilize youths and gain traction over time should not be discounted, given that they have now sparked two power changes in the past two and a half years.”
Trager believes that the army is aware of this and would want to avoid any protests “by groups other than the Muslim Brotherhood, which is the best reason to expect Mubarak to stay put.”
“Of course, if he’s released, many Egyptians will shrug it off, perhaps viewing him more favorably than they once did given everything that’s followed his removal,” he said.
Mara Revkin, an independent analyst who just returned from Cairo, and a former assistant director of the Atlantic Council’s Middle East Center, told the Post that she thinks Mubarak’s release would trigger a strong reaction from supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi.
“Mubarak’s release, whatever the legal basis behind the decision, would immediately trigger a strong backlash from the pro-Morsi camp, which has long accused the Mubarak-appointed judiciary of interfering inappropriately in the political process and serving the interests of the former regime,” she said.
During Morsi’s rule, “a number of legal battles between the courts and the Brotherhood-controlled presidency and parliament became so politicized that they spilled over into the streets,” said Revkin.
In December 2012, the Supreme Constitutional Court suspended its work for over a month after Morsi supporters laid siege to the building in order to prevent it from ruling on the legality of Egypt’s now-suspended constitution, she said.
“For the Brotherhood, the prospect of their legitimately elected president sitting in jail while a former dictator is freed would represent a profound injustice,” observed Revkin.
Asked if the release would trigger even stronger protests by Morsi’s supporters, Revkin responded that it could rouse Islamists further against Gen. Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.
Such a prospect of even more violence and of being linked to Mubarak’s regime, might lead Sisi to keep him behind bars for the time being or find some middle-ground solution such as house arrest.
The report on Tuesday that the committee assigned to amend Egypt’s constitution decided to opt for an outright ban on political parties based on religion, essentially bans the Muslim Brotherhood from the political scene and signals that the party is headed for rough times, despite US and European efforts to have the party reintegrated into politics.
Mubarak’s turn of fortune; the crackdown and removal of the Brotherhood from the political scene; and the promise of aid by Gulf States led by Saudi Arabia indicate that US and European efforts of mitigating the Brotherhood’s complete subjugation, have failed.