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Welcome to Egypt 2014
Why Egypt just freed former dictator Hosni Mubarak
Why was Mubarak released? - (Why not)
Officially, the case was dismissed on a technicality: prosecutors were supposed to follow a special procedure in May 2011 when they added Mubarak as a co-defendant to a pre-existing case, but they didn't file the paperwork in time. Of course, there is more going on here. Despite the judge's insistence that the ruling "has nothing to do with politics," this is all about politics.
Charges against Mubarak were always political. February, 2011, he was ousted by popular revolution and by his own military.
Not long after, he was imprisoned on charges of corruption (for selling natural gas to Israel at below-market prices, for instance) and of murder, for ordering security forces to kill civilians who had gathered against him in public protest.
While charges were almost certainly accurate — security forces did kill hundreds of the protesters, and of course Mubarak's regime was notoriously corrupt — the case against him was hurried along thourgh the courts to satisfy the revolutionary mood of the people - at the moment.
But now, the revolutionary mood is over. Egypt is today ruled by Abdel Fatah el-Sisi, a military dictator and secular nationalist just like Mubarak had been. (Also like Mubarak, Sisi has officially relinquished his military title.) Sisi's regime looks an awful lot like Mubarak's and includes a number of the same people. Under Mubarak, the Egyptian judiciary was a reliable political organ, staffed with regime loyalists; it remains so today.
The politics clearly favored Mubarak's release, and it is politics — not rule of law — that clearly guided this case from the beginning. (In May, Mubarak was sentenced to three years for a separate set of corruption charges, but he had already served three years as of the very month he was convicted, meaning his sentence is over and he has no outstanding charges.)
Mubarak's release is not really surprising, but it is significantly important symbolically.
Sisi did not order the judge to let Mubarak go free - but then he didn't have to - did he?
Egypt's political situation and state controlled media broadcasting changed courses from secular authority (dictatorship) to a liberalism of 2011 revolution and then to deal with "Islamism" of 2012 Muslim Brotherhood (although duly elected by democratic process), then with Sisi's coup (July 2013) right back to secular authority.
Egypt's judges know how to go with the flow and how to adjust the scale of justice to balance in the right direction.
Sisi's government does not openly support Mubarak, it doesn't have to. It simply condemns the 2011 revolution, its leaders and anyone connected with the Muslim Brotherhood. Never mind the hundreds of thousands of Egyptian citizens who risked their lives by going to the streets demanding Mubarak to leave. Keep in mind these were not only Muslims, there were plenty of Christians and even atheists calling for removal of their dictator.
Strangely enough it seems Egyptian youth seem to be easily led from one extreme to another. Opinions run from one side to the other like a ping pong match. The same young people fighting for democracy in 2011, are the very same youths who were protesting to ask military intervention and removal of the Muslim Brotherhood, who had been democratically elected.
Believe it or not, it seems many young people who are definitely not on Mubarak's side, yet the concept of military dictatorship has become acceptable and in some cases, even popular in these days.
Egyptians seem fed up with politics, financial schemes, protests and chaos. They are worse off than ever and no one left to blame, expect maybe themselves for playing into the hands of their new rulers.
Hundreds of thousands demonstrated day and night around the clock in the beginning of 2011 and on into the year - all calling for Mubarak's removal and imprisonment. Yet when he was released yesterday, only a couple hundred showed up and even then there was little clamor over his beating the charges of murder for more people than showed up.
Perhaps the lesson there is:
"Don't get too excited about change - if you don't have a plan for something better".