WASHINGTON, August 21, 2013 – The Egyptian judiciary has ordered former long-time dictator Hosni Mubarak freed from prison. The 85-year-old Mubarak was cleared by the court of allegations that he embezzled funds during his rule.
Mubarak will be released to house arrest and, according to his lawyer Fareed el-Deeb, “He should be freed by the end of the week.”
Releasing Hosni Mubarak risks undermining both the 2011 and the 2013 revolutions.
In 2011, Egyptians took to the streets as part of the “Arab Spring” to remove Mubarak. Then in July 2013, Egyptians again held massive protests against President Mohammed Morsi, prompting the military to intervene and remove him from office.
Mubarak would be the first deposed Arab spring leader to be accepted back in his country, at least legally. However, it remains unclear whether he will actually go free. Mubarak still faces charges of complicity in the killing of hundreds of protesters involved in the 2011 revolution.
Egypt is currently reeling from violence stemming from its July 3 revolution. Over 1000 people have been killed since Egyptian security forces cracked down on Muslim Brotherhood protest camps in early August. These camps were established after Morsi’s ouster on July 3rd and were cleared away by security forces using armored bulldozers and live ammunition.
Authorities put a dawn to dusk curfew in place in Cairo and in the Sinai, where 25 Egyptian policemen were killed execution style by Islamic militants.
Introducing the former dictator to the political dynamic may make things exponentially more complicated.
The approach of General al-Sisi, the deputy Prime Minister of Egyptand head of the military who spearheaded army intervention against Morsi, will set the tone concerning Mubarak. Mubarak was Air Force Commander before taking over as Egypts 4th President. The Egyptian military has a long reputation for protecting its own, leading some to speculate that the Army will back Mubarak.
Once released, Mubarak will likely face opposition from both Islamists and secular Egyptians who believe his release is unjust.
Mubarak’s release could spell disaster for the interim government. Releasing the former dictator will likely lead to accusations that the interim government is collaborating with the former leader, especially as it comes on the heels of its own crackdown. Opposition groups are also likely to increase allegations that the government is anti-democratic and to call for it to be disbanded.
The undefined variable of Mubarak’s release creates still another level of uncertainty. With violence still endemic around the country, the government cannot add more variables to the equation, especially those that could lead to a weakening of its own base of support.
Government backing for Mubarak may also weaken support abroad at a time where many countries are thinking about cutting aid to the troubled nation.
“What we’ve done in Britain so far is that we have suspended projects with the Egyptian security forces. We have revoked a number of export licenses, and I think then among the European countries we should review together how we try to aid Egypt, what aid and assistance we give to Egypt in the future…Foreign policy is often about striking the right balance.” Said the British foreign secretary.
The United States is also currently reconsidering aid to Egypt, and at least some lawmakers want to elminate all aid to Egypt. Lawmakers are revisiting the decision to continue sending its annual $1.5 Billion in funding to Egypt. That aid that is dictated by the Camp David Peace Accords, and is partially responsible for guaranteeing Egyptian support for Israel.
Canceling US aid, which may be required under US Law, may threaten the security of Israel, the major beneficiary of the Camp David accords. The Tamarod movement responsible for organizing and effectively ousting Morsi, is already calling for the government to cancel the Camp David Peace Treaty. In light of the cancellation of joint military exercise with Egypt, the Tamarod believes that US interference in Egyptian politics is “unacceptable.”
Adding Hosni Mubarak to the current dynamic will further complicate a situation. His release can stir up a third faction vying for power, may put the support of the military for the interim government on shaky footing and lead to an international, political and social backlash, undermining the credibility of a government that is in desperate need of friends, both inside and outside of Egypt.
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