Egyptian Court Drops Charges Against Mubarak, Further Cementing Renewed Military Rule

Well, so much for that "people's revolt" that brought down a military dictator.


An Egyptian Court has dropped all of the remaining charges against former President Hosni Mubarak, effectively bringing an end to an effort to hold Mubarak and his cronies responsible for crimes committed during his thirty year authoritarian rule over Egypt that had begun shortly after Mubabark was removed from office February 2011:

CAIRO — An Egyptian court on Saturday dismissed all remaining criminal charges against former President Hosni Mubarak, raising the possibility that Mr. Mubarak could go free for the first time since he was removed from office in the 2011 uprising that defined the Arab Spring.

During earlier hearings in the various proceedings against Mr. Mubarak human rights lawyers demanded harsh punishment for his three decades of brutal autocracy, but Saturday’s court session was packed with Mubarak supporters who erupted in cheers at the verdict.

The 86-year-old former leader, who has been held at a military hospital and appeared in court on a stretcher, remained stone-faced as the chief judge, Mahmoud Kamel al-Rashidi, read the verdict. Only then did he allow himself a smile, and his two sons, Alaa and Gamal, hugged and kissed him in celebration. Both were acquitted of corruption charges along with their father.

The judge would not elaborate on his reasoning from the bench, insisting that any commentators read at least a 240-page summary of his 1,340-page explanation of the case.

He dismissed the most serious charges: that Mr. Mubarak was responsible for the killing of hundreds of nonviolent demonstrators during the protests that ended his rule. He acquitted him of the corruption charges, which involved allegations that he had sold natural gas to Israel at below-market prices, as well as other allegations Mr. Mubarak and his sons were given vacation homes as kickbacks.

In May, Mr. Mubarak was sentenced to three years in prison in a separate corruption case, involving lavish, government-funded improvements to his and his sons’ personal homes. But having spent more than three years in custody on various charges, the former president might now be freed after a determination that he had served the requisite time.

Judge Rashidi declared on Saturday that his verdict “has nothing to do with politics.”

Richard Spencer, Middle East Correspondent for The Telegraph comments:

Were the shootings the result of direct orders from the top? In Egypt’s hierarchical politics, it seems impossible to think otherwise. Nevertheless, Saturday morning’s judgement tells us they were not a direct command.

It was, of course, already politically impossible for Mr Mubarak and his interior minister, Habib al-Adly, to pay any real judicial price for what happened on those days. The horror that unfolded during the afternoon and night of January 28 has been matched or outdone by events since, in Egypt and elsewhere.

Most importantly, Egypt’s new strongman, President Abdulfattah al-Sisi, owes his own position to the tough line he took with protests subsequent to the military coup that brought him to power. A thousand more protesters died in August last year, and the line of command for those shootings is on record.

Mr Sisi’s cabinet was warned that to clear the streets of demonstrations then might cost even more lives – two or three thousand. The possibility, and fear, of subsequent prosecution was among the issues discussed.


Some of those liberals now back Mr Sisi and his new authoritarianism: the new rulers are far more brutal and capricious than Mr Mubarak’s regime.

They say a “stable government” now can allow them to plant the seeds of a democratic landscape to come. There are precedents for that – in Pinochet’s Chile, and former Asian dictatorships like South Korea’s or Taiwan’s.

The regime still claims to be “revolutionary”.

But then the regime has claimed to be revolutionary ever since Mr Mubarak’s military predecessors came to power six decades ago.

Real democracy may take decades more. In the meantime, those who kill for the state will remain unpunished.

Once the coup occurred in July of last year and the el Sisi regime began white washing the history of military rule before the protests of February 2011, it was seemingly inevitable that Mubarak and the generals that backed him would never end up paying any price for the abuses of thirty years of military rule. After all, most of the people that were involved in that July 2013 coup were the same people who had been in power prior to the February 2011 power, and who largely stayed in power afterwards. Once they wrestled power back from Egypt’s brief and admittedly imperfect experiment in representative democracy, it was inevitable that they would seek to restore the reputation of the military rule that preceded those protests. Like the regime that exists today, of course, that regime existed under the veneer of elections that purported to show near unanimous public support for military rule, but the el-Sisi and the other could hardly afford the precedent of Mubarak being held responsible for essentially exercising the same authority that they purport to exercise today. It’s much better for them that Mubarak quietly live out the rest of his life in a seaside villa on the Sinai Peninsula than face a trial in which the dirty little secrets of six decades of military rule might inadvertently slip out.

If nothing else, this decision means that the revolution that swept Eqypt in January and February 2011 has essentially been wiped out of existence. When it started out it seemed unlikely that even such mass protests could stand up to a half century of military rule, especially if Mubarak actually did unleash force against the protests to the extent that he could have had he not be restrained by his own generals and, to a large degree by the United States. However, at some point it became clear that the people would accept nothing less than the downfall of the Mubarak regime itself, so the Generals threw him to the wolves and the search began for a way to govern Egypt in at least something resembling a democratic manner. The problem that developed is that there was really only one party, the Muslim Brotherhood and its political arm, that was well organized enough for the quick elections that were called in the wake of the protests, and they took full advantage of their victory in ways that ended up pushing boundaries that neither the military nor other parts of Egyptian society were willing to accept. That, combined with the fact that President Morsi proved utterly ineffective in addressing the nation’s long standing economic problems, including an unemployment rate near 15% for the total population rate and 25% for youth and people in their 20s, led to new protests less than a year after the new President took office and, of course, a military coup that the public seemed to welcome. Now, more than a year later, the el-Sisi regime is firmly implanted in power, its candidate has won an obviously rigged Presidential election, and Egypt is once again becoming a regional power having played a crucial role in the end of the summer war between Israel and Hamas and joining the UAE forces in striking rebels in Libya. In other words, it’s as if the events of January and February 2011 never even happened and things are back to status quo ante in Egypt. If the Egyptian military has anything to say about, that’s unlikely to change for decades to come.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. bill says:

    and people thought the “arab spring” would succeed at something positive? i mean aside from making glenn beck look prophetic.

  2. lounsbury says:

    @bill: Grossly ignorant thing to say. Tunisia proceeds and your Beck looks like nothing but the provincial buffoon that he is.

    However, regarding the actual analysis, there is an error: Doug ignores the familial politics – grooming of a Mubarek to Mubarek succession that was apparently being schemed – versus the Military. That was not to the liking of the officer corps at all, and rather against the Egyptian military rule tradition. The revolution did close the door to a Mubarek dynasty à la the Assads.

  3. Grewgills says:

    Tunisia is a bright spot in what appears to be an otherwise pretty dismal aftermath. Libya and Yemen are a mess and Egypt seems to be heading back to where it was before. I haven’t followed the regional politics nearly as closely as you, do you see any other bright spots in what looks to me like a return to the status quo ante?

  4. bill says:

    @lounsbury: and who cares about tunisia, they don’t have oil let alone anything we care about? libya & egypt were the main countries anyone really cared about due to their oil/strategic location and they went nowhere- maybe even backward.

  5. Davebo says:


    Lybia has the largest proven oil reserves on the African continent which is a big reason why the sanction were lifted.

    Not that sanctions against US companies operating there were ever even mildly effective.

  6. anjin-san says:

    Considering the turn away from democracy our own country has taken in the 21st century, we might be better served putting our own house in order, not sneering at other countries.

  7. lounsbury says:

    Yemen has pretty much F**k all to do with the Arab Spring, Saleh’s fall is an accident of timing and not really the same issue. The Houthi situation is a permanent one. Rolling Yemen into the discussion is simply ignorance of Yemen’s long-term situation.

    Libya rather evidently is a failing.

    Egypt, eh. That was always going to end up that way. Too many security issues and international interests. The Egyptian Mamlouk tradition and none of the social factors for Tunisian success. Syria is a Lebanon writ large. Again was never going to turn out nicely.

    in any case, a bit of historical perspective. Neither the 1848 European revolutions that set off political modernization nor the 1870s 2nd round did not play out in USA Sitcom TV or Action Movie schedule and neither will the Arab Spring. Americans need to learn some perspective. One does not have political transformation with a president falling and an election. Never have and never will.

    @bill: Aside from displaying your parochial ignorance, who cares about Tunisia is anyone who’s not a bigot and racist git. If you care about simply petrol and hydrocarbons, well one cares about Tunisia because it’s border situation with the Algeria and gas transit to Italy. A number of other economic factors are important, but ignorant provincials who skim USA Today headlines and think they know something of the world would not follow….

    The Tunisians are demonstrating that with certain social conditions, and above all a mature leadership on the Islamist side, things can go differently.

  8. Barry says:

    “That, combined with the fact that President Morsi proved utterly ineffective in addressing the nation’s long standing economic problems, including an unemployment rate near 15% for the total population rate and 25% for youth and people in their 20s, led to new protests less than a year after the new President took office and, of course, a military coup that the public seemed to welcome. ”

    I can see that not fixing everything in one year, with undoubtedly no ability to budge the military-business complex, is a ringing indictment of that government.

    Doug, do you actually think that we are that stupid?

  9. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Meet the new boss.
    Same as the old boss.

  10. lounsbury says:

    The story is rather more complicated than that.

    It is certainly the case Morsi ran head on into the business interests of the Mamlouk Army, and the summer gas and electrical shortages were almost certainly engineered by the Army.

    That said, Morsi and his closest advisors proved ham-handed in managing political relations – one can draw a stark contrast with Ennahda in Tunisia or the PJD in Morocco, both of whose leadership are / were rather more sophisticated in democratic politicking. The Brotherhood in Egypt rather stupidly sidelined its most sophisticated politicians (viewed as suspect for compromising) and thought it had the upper hand. It did not.

    While the Brotherhood’s actual administration in Egypt was certainly no worse than Mubarek and probably slightly better in competency, their political manoeuvring was deeply incompetent.

    I should add that to look at the Arab Spring in the lens of the Masheq countries is to engage in rather typical American Gulf-Israel centered myopia. The two of the three Maghreb countries – Morocco which undertook serious reforms provoked & enabled by the Tunisian revolution (having given the King a margin to move against a part of his own retrograde Makhzen) – and Tunisia. Both are showing a possibility if step-wise political reform and how bringing opposition into the system can build slowly – slowly not in the impatient American style – a democratic base instinct to culture. That in the medium term is a positive outcome from the Tunisian revolution, even if in the short term the noise and shouting around Egypt, Syria obscure it – particularly for Americans with their oil and Israel myopias.

  11. bill says:

    @lounsbury: yes, please keep blessing us with cherry picked facts of backward countries that do nothing for us while avoiding the reality that “arab spring” was a dud- like most arab countries are already.

  12. lounsbury says:

    @bill: What “cherry picked fact” my dear backwards provincial have been presented?

    The rest of the world does not exist for the USA (although of course insofar as the Moroccans have the world largest high quality phosphate, lovelingly developed with an American JV, they rather are doing quite a lot for all countries in intensive mechanised agriculture – not everything being petrol despite the provincial racist ignoramus belief), so “doing something for” you is rather besides the point.

    The Arab Spring is about the Arabs, not about American rednecks with but a dim understanding of the world.