Monday, December 1, 2014

Mubarak Cleared by Military Government, and other News that Won't Surprise You

Look at that face! Is that the face of a murderer?
Maybe a mob boss. But not a murderer!
In what the New York Times is calling “a sweeping repudiation of the Arab Spring,” on Saturday an Egyptian court overturned all charges against former President/dictator-in-chief Hosni Mubarak, including charges of murder and corruption. This is the second legal victory (and likely the last) for Mr. Mubarak, whose earlier conviction for the murder of protestors in Egypt’s Arab Spring movement was successfully appealed. His lawyer Farid al-Deeb claims that he could be released any day now, as he has served three years in jail without a conviction already and is allegedly in “poor health,” though arguably he is in better condition than the thousands of civilians killed and injured in the 2011 protests.

The move marks a broader trend of the coup-installed government of President/dictator-in-waiting Abdel al-Sisi, who urged Egyptians to "look to the future" rather than mull on the dark past, to which Egypt "cannot ever go back." The government of al-Sisi, which took over after ousting democratically-elected-despot-to-be Mohamed Morsi in 2013, seeks to "turn the page" (close the book?) on the painful memories of the Arab Spring, the most painful of which is probably the fact that they have never been elected to the offices in which they presently serve. Yet not all Egyptians were willing to be so forgiving, and thousands of protestors demonstrated their displeasure upon news of the court's decision.

As a mark of how far the government has come since the Mubarak era, heavily armed security forces broke up demonstrations, blocked off Tahrir Square, and used tear gas and birdshot to disperse the protestors. All unauthorized gatherings have been banned by the totally-democratic government of al-Sisi, and at least two protestors died and 85 were arrested for having selfishly ignored this commandment. Many protestors expressed dismay that not only the charges of murder of protestors, but also the charges of obvious corruption of Mubarak, his family, and his regime were dismissed. His security chief and a half-dozen police officials on trial were also cleared, and al-Sisi assured the populace that this is simply due to the fantastic work being done by the courts.

While the judge in the case appeared to see the prosecution’s point, due to Mubarak’s old age he felt that it was appropriate that he will soon be tried “by the Judge of Judges.” Presumably he means God, but I’m willing to bet Mubarak will sooner be meeting a certain fallen angel. Conspiracy theories also abound that it wasn’t really the police or security forces that killed protestors, but in fact the evil Muslim Brotherhood, at the direction of Morsi. Former President Morsi is still in jail awaiting his own trial, including charges of the murder of protestors, for which he could face the death penalty. A dollar to whomever can guess the outcome of that trial.

In the ongoing farce of democracy in Egypt, the clearing of Mubarak hardly comes as a surprise. Al-Sisi belongs to the same good ole boys club in the Egyptian military that Mubarak grew up in, and is surrounded by Mubarak-era advisors. His own brutal crackdowns against protestors would make anyone hesitant to set a precedent for (his own) future murder trial. Yet it feels like just one more nail in the coffin of the optimism that accompanied the Arab Awakening, and another reminder that democracy is not an easy nor a clear path to tread.

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