Friday,21 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1131, 17 - 23 January
Friday,21 September, 2018
Issue 1131, 17 - 23 January

Ahram Weekly

Mubarak’s fate

Acquaintances of the Mubarak family say that the former president’s nightmare could be coming to an end, reports Dina Ezzat

Al-Ahram Weekly

The fate of ousted former president Hosni Mubarak, currently serving a life sentence for having done nothing to save civilian demonstrators from being killed during the 25 January Revolution, has become intertwined with foreign policy issues relating to Egypt’s relations with some of its formerly closest Arab supporters as well as to the inconclusive debate over the country’s transitional justice system.

This week’s ruling by the Court of Cassation that it would accept an appeal from Mubarak’s lawyers that he should be retried on the criminal charges he was convicted on last summer has come in parallel with an unprecedented offer by Mubarak himself to settle all the financial disputes the court finds the ousted former president to be involved in, even those he categorically denies.

Once the financial charges are settled or dropped, Mubarak will only face the criminal charges relating to the killing of the demonstrators.

A source close to the lawyer’s office defending Mubarak said that Mubarak’s lawyers were working hard to ensure that the financial disputes were promptly settled before the Court of Cassation convened to examine the criminal charges against him.

Mubarak’s lawyer Farid Al-Deeb said in TV interviews earlier this week that Mubarak and his two sons, Alaa and Gamal, also held in custody pending trial for financial corruption, would be willing to pay whatever it took to clear the financial charges.

Once this was done, Al-Deeb suggested, he was hopeful that Mubarak would be cleared of the financial charges and would then only have to await trial at the Court of Cassation.

Mubarak has been in custody pending trial over the killing of the demonstrators for over 18 months, which could cover the maximum custodial term demanded by the criminal law.

Lawyer and rights activist Mahmoud Kandil said that once the financial charges were settled, Mubarak’s fate could take one of three forms. The court could decide to keep him in custody pending further litigation, it could decide to free Mubarak and deny him the right to travel overseas, or it could decide to free him unconditionally.

The third option is what the legal and political sources who spoke to Al-Ahram Weekly on condition of anonymity seemed to be expecting. For Kandil, this possibility was also likely in view of the “deal being discussed”.

The deal — some suggest deals — over the fate of Mubarak is not new. Since he was forced to step down as president following 18 days of nationwide demonstrations demanding an end to his three-decade rule, Mubarak has been repeatedly offered asylum in several Arab Gulf states, whose diplomats have said that despite his mistakes Mubarak was a good man who tried hard to serve the best interests of his people and those of the Arab world.

According to close family associates, Mubarak has declined these offers, especially since he was apparently offered assurances by the previously ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) that he would not end his days in prison.

A source close to former head of SCAF Hussein Tantawi, later forced into retirement by President Mohamed Morsi, said that Tantawi had wanted to keep Mubarak out of the courts but had been unable to do so owing to public pressure.

Tantawi had suggested to Mubarak, according to the same source, that he take time out of Egypt with his family before the start of the investigation and litigation process, but the ousted former president had declined.

He said that “he had done nothing but serve his country and that there was nothing that could be used against him,” the source said.

Informed high-level sources said that there was now a desire on the part of the state to end the Mubarak issue. One source said that both Riyadh and Abu Dhabi, with whom relations have been tense, had repeatedly asked to host Mubarak and his family and “in return” reach out a helping economic hand to Egypt.

The offers are still on, the same sources say. “We think that Mubarak has been discredited for life, whatever the Court of Cassation decides to do with him. Nobody is interfering, since it is over for Mubarak because even if he were acquitted he would still be perceived negatively by the vast majority of Egyptians,” said one source.

What was important now was that he and his sons repay their “dues” to the state and face charges before a court of law.

State sources who had earlier spoken to the Weekly insisted that Mubarak would only be allowed a settlement on the financial corruption charges. “The killing of the demonstrators is another story. Here, he will have to await the court ruling.”

Even if acquitted, the close to 85-year-old and ailing president might not survive long enough to see the end of a new trial, which, according to his lawyers and independent legal sources, could take anything between two and four years.

Even if Mubarak was found guilty again during his lifetime, he could then ask to be offered remission. This would be possible if approved by parliament, an advisor to President Morsi said.

Informed legal and political sources say that the coming weeks and months will see the “closing” of several legal cases relating to aides of the Mubarak regime who have been put in jail on financial corruption charges. “They are willing to pay whatever they are asked to get out of jail,” one source suggested, adding that “this could only happen through the strictest legal channels directly and through mediators.”

Two leading figures of the former Mubarak regime had independently told the Weekly on condition of anonymity that they had agreed in talks with leading Muslim Brotherhood and state figures to pay back large amounts they are charged with illicitly acquiring in their terms in office in return for being let off the charges.

“I know I am innocent, but if I have to pay to end this unfair situation in which I find myself then I will certainly do it. Time will tell who is innocent and who is not,” one former Mubarak regime figure said, adding that he expected “matters to take a few more weeks” to settle.

Most of those seeking an end to the legal charges against them seem to be planning to leave Egypt once their cases are settled. This applies to at least one of the Mubarak sons.

“Mubarak himself dreads the idea of being in political exile, and he thinks this is not what he deserves. He says he made mistakes, but that he does not deserve such humiliation,” said a doctor who had spoken to Mubarak before he was transferred from the Tora Prison to the Maadi Military Hospital due to declining health.

Acquaintances of the Mubarak family quote family members as saying that the nightmare is now coming to an end. “They are keeping their fingers crossed because nobody can tell how things could go. But they are hopeful for sure,” said one of the acquaintances.

For Kandil, the fate of Mubarak and his sons and aides is likely to be similar to that of “the many police officers who were facing charges of killing demonstrators and were acquitted. We have no reason to think that the fate of Mubarak will be any different.”

For political scientist and former parliamentarian Amr Hamzawy, what counts is not just the fate of Mubarak and his men, but rather the whole transitional system of justice.

“Right from the beginning we have been advocating a full and comprehensive way of dealing with all matters relating to transitional justice. But this has been and still is lacking,” Hamzawy said.

Having presented the dissolved 2011 parliament with a draft bill on transitional justice, Hamzawy today insists that fairness is still missing in the way cases relating to human rights violations are handled. These include cases that include torture and killing under the rule of Mubarak and during the revolution, as well as charges of systematic corruption.

“Matters are dealt with on a case-by-case basis, and this goes right against the concept of a comprehensive transitional justice system,” Hamzawy said, adding that the latter should include recognition of wrong-doing and an apology for the crimes committed.

“This is how we have seen things work in proper transitional justice contexts, including the most obvious case of South Africa,” he said.

Moreover, Hamzawy is concerned over the “lack of transparency” that could prevail in striking settlements with Mubarak regime figures involved in cases of systematic corruption.

“It is a very sensitive matter, especially since those in power today, unlike for example the currently ruling Islamists in Tunisia, were not in exile but were living in Egypt and had links, or at least in-roads, to the interest groups that were in power before and that are still partially present today.”

Hamzawy is not convinced that the law to protect the Revolution that was issued by the president last November offers enough guarantees to secure a proper or methodological system of transitional justice, and he argues that developments in the Mubarak case should be a reminder of the need for a comprehensive system of transitional justice.

State officials insist that the case of Mubarak will be treated through the appropriate legal machinery, though away from other cases.

According to one source close to discussions on the matter that have been largely conducted through Khairat Al-Shater, second-in-command of the Muslim Brotherhood, “Egypt is keen to contain its disputes with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, and a settlement of the Mubarak case, and in fact of other relevant cases as well, could certainly help.”

The source added that the assessment of the public-opinion monitoring mechanisms set up by Al-Shater was that a deal over Mubarak could pass now.

This might well be true. Reham, a political activist who was involved in many of the anti-Mubarak demonstrations from 2007 onwards, said that she would not object if a deal was reached over Mubarak.

“Let’s face it. The evidence was destroyed, and he will get an acquittal anyway. Let’s now get something in return by helping the economy, which is falling apart. We need to worry more about poor people,” she said, to the disapproval of other activists participating in a discussion as the court ruling was issued accepting the retrial of Mubarak.

Those who object to Reham’s argument say that if Mubarak finds an exit now, this will be a very negative message to send to the families of the martyrs. However, Reham was adamant. “There have been martyrs since Mubarak was removed. Who’s going to convict Tantawi for those killed during the rule of SCAF, or take Morsi to court over the death of demonstrators in front of his own palace,” she asked.

It is this argument comparing Mubarak to those who followed him that prompted Rawia, a housewife, to argue that if “they want to get him out and get some money to help the current ailing economic situation in return, then let them do it.”

Speaking in a Heliopolis supermarket where she was doing her grocery shopping, Rawia was convinced “that Mubarak is like Morsi. It makes no sense to punish the one and leave the other. They are all the same. Let’s be honest with ourselves: this is just the way things are.”

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