Too much could easily be made of the pending release from prison of former Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak, who is still facing charges of complicity in killing some 900 young protesters during the Jan. 25, 2011, uprising. The courts couldn’t find evidence tying him to corruption (which either means that Mubarak’s accountants hid their trail with world-beating efficiency or else that the courts took a very, very narrow view of what corruption might be).
Ironically, it was another deposed president, Muhammad Morsi, who ordered that Mubarak be retried. Mubarak had been found guilty of responsibility for the demonstrators’ deaths, but Morsi apparently wanted a more robust verdict. But allowing a retrial means that Mubarak-era judges could well reverse his conviction. The reasoning of the judgment against Mubarak was rather tortured, since the judges simply reasoned that as dictator, if Mubarak had wanted to stop the killing of demonstrators, he could have– but they admitted they found no evidence that Mubarak issued an order that people should be killed.
Another irony: Morsi himself will likely be charged with ordering protesters killed in early December, 2012, when he had declared himself above the law and determined to push through a fundamentalist constitution. Outraged left-liberal youth movements massed in front of the presidential palace. On December 6 in particular, a Muslim Brotherhood paramilitary is accused of killing several peaceful youth demonstrators, and it is alleged in many quarters in Egypt that Morsi ordered the crackdown.
So, Mubarak could get off, while Morsi could be convicted on similar charges of ordering deaths of protesters.
Another irony: The current military junta has already killed more protesters than either Mubarak or Morsi did (Morsi likely had hundreds killed over several months). But its leaders, who have begun speaking of banning public protests and have actually prohibited sit-ins, and some of whom have threatened a policy of using live ammunition against Muslim Brotherhood demonstrators, won’t be charged with anything at all unless there is yet another coup or revolution.
On Monday, Muslim Brotherhood Supreme Guide was arrested in Nasr City after local residents spotted him and called police. He is being charged with having Brotherhood cadres kill demonstrators in front of the Brotherhood HQ in the Muqattam Hills in Cairo. Since Badie is viewed by anti-Muslim Brotherhood critics as Morsi’s puppet-master, he may well be charged with Morsi’s alleged crimes, as well. Also arrested is Hassan Malek, the Brotherhood’s money man, a huge entrepreneur who is said to have helped fund Muslim fundamentalist movements around the world. Now that the Brotherhood is being redefined in Egypt as a terrorist organization (which is ridiculous), all fundamentalist movements are likely to get the same treatment, and funding them will be coded as terrorism.
Secularists tempted to cheer these developments because they appear to weaken a powerful fundamentalist movement like the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood should pause to consider the methods and rhetoric that are being used. Neither bodes well for civil liberties in the Middle East in the coming decade, and the backlash from the religious right, which could well be pushed into actual, not just rhetorical, terrorism, could be extremely destabilizing.