Monday,23 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1231, (29 January - 4 February 2015)
Monday,23 October, 2017
Issue 1231, (29 January - 4 February 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Symbolic timing?

Alaa and Gamal Mubarak are free on the fourth anniversary of the uprising that drove their father from power, reports Gamal Essam El-Din

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Al-Ahram Weekly

On 22 January Cairo Criminal Court ordered that Alaa and Gamal Mubarak be released from prison. The order, say informed sources, was carried out either in the late hours of Sunday, the day marking the anniversary of the uprising that overthrew their father, or in the early hours of Monday.

Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim, speaking at a Monday press conference, said Gamal and Alaa were released “under a judicial order in which the Interior Ministry had no hand.”

The two brothers were arrested on 13 April 2011, two months after their father, Hosni Mubarak, was forced from office. Though they still face a number of outstanding charges their release was ordered because Article 143 of the Criminal Procedures Law states that defendants cannot remain in custody pending trial for more than 18 months.

On 21 May 2014 Cairo Criminal Court sentenced Gamal and Alaa to four years for embezzling LE125 million of funds earmarked for the renovation of presidential palaces. The Court of Cassation overturned the 2014 verdict on 13 January and ordered a retrial.

Since the embezzlement charges were first pressed on 26 June 2013, it became possible for Fareed Al-Deeb, the Mubarak family’s lawyer, to petition for their release since they had been detained for more than 18 months.

The release of the two Mubaraks, at a time when Egypt was marking the uprising that led to their father’s overthrow, sparked fury among revolutionary movements. The Democratic Current announced that it showed just how far Egypt has to go before it rids itself of the authoritarian legacy of Mubarak’s three decades in power.

Anwar Al-Sadat, chairman of the Reform and Development Party, accused the banned Muslim Brotherhood of seeking to exploit the release of the Mubaraks to serve its political agenda. “It tried to garner support for wide-scale street protests against President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi by making use of the release of the Mubaraks, but it failed,” said Sadat.

The former first family’s legal saga is not yet over. They could face a retrial on charges of illegal profiteering if the Court of Cassation rules in favour of Prosecutor-General Hisham Barakat’s appeal against their earlier acquittal and orders a retrial.

“If anyone said after they were detained that Alaa and Gamal would be released in less than four years they would have been described as either very imaginative or foolish,” says Al-Sadat. “Now the unimaginable has become a reality. And it became so on the day marking the people’s revolt against their father.”

Gamal and Alaa are defendants in an ongoing case involving insider dealing. No convincing account of the source of the vast personal fortunes both sons amassed during their father’s years in office has been forthcoming, though they have been questioned at length by the Illicit Gains Office. A travel ban on Alaa and Gamal remains in force, as does the confiscation order placed on their assets inside Egypt.

The release has fueled speculation that Mubarak’s younger son, and heir apparent, Gamal might consider re-entering politics. Following Gamal’s acquittal on corruption charges last November, local media cited sources claiming he was eyeing a presidential run in 2018.

Most political analysts dismiss the rumours as nonsense. On Monday, Sameh Ashour, chairman of the Lawyers’ Syndicate, told a TV interviewer, “No political comeback is possible for Gamal Mubarak, who still has to be cleared of a host of outstanding corruption charges.”

“Gamal, and the entire Mubarak family, lacks any kind of support on the street,” said Ashour. “Most of the officials who surrounded him when he was a leading figure in his father’s now-defunct ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) have either vanished or are facing trial.”

Suzanne Mubarak told a Kuwaiti journalist last week, “Gamal was never groomed to inherit power from his father.

“Egypt is a republican system,” she said, “and any attempt to draw a father-son succession scenario would have been completely out of bounds.”

Tagammu Party spokesman Nabil Zaki says press reports that Gamal could “play a role in politics again or form a political party” are pie in the sky.

Said journalist Abdallah Al-Sinnawi, “The acquittal and release orders have, if anything, undermined any sympathy for the Mubarak family among Egyptians. A majority of Egyptians think the succession scenario between 2000 and 2010 marked the beginning of the downfall of his father’s regime and the ensuing democratic crisis. It is difficult to think that any political force would dare join forces with Gamal Mubarak in the future.”

Mohamed Abdel-Alim, a former independent MP, begs to differ. “The release of Gamal Mubarak could well encourage former members of the NDP to run in the parliamentary election, which would send a very negative signal about the future of political life in Egypt.

“Ahmed Ezz, the steel tycoon who acted as Gamal Mubarak’s right-hand man, has also been released from prison, pending trial, and there are strong rumours that he is willing to fund the election campaigns of former NDP MPs willing to seek seats in the next parliament.”

 

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