The deposed president of Egypt Hosni Mubarak was convicted of graft and sentenced to three years in prison today.
You read right—graft. It’s a little like getting Al Capone for tax evasion, although Mubarak doesn’t have anything near the popular support of the late gangster.
This was his second trial, as Mubarak’s earlier sentencing for his role in the deaths of 900 protesters during the 2011 protests had been overturned. Then-president Mohammed Morsi’s attempt to reopen the case was interrupted by his own ouster at the hands of the Egyptian military, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The embezzlement charges stem from millions in state funds the Mubaraks used for their own palatial residences. The family tried to stave off the storm by returning 120 million Egyptian pounds before the case began, but it went on anyways. They have been fined 21.1 million Egyptian pounds and ordered to return 125 million, according to the AP.
Mubarak’s sons, whose success as businessmen was attributed to their father’s position, also received three years each, although their ultimate fates are pending further trial.
However judges in the case told Reuters that all three men can use some of their jail time since 2011 towards the sentence, and Mubarak’s health will probably mean he spends his remaining sentence in the hospital.
The understated elegance of the charge reflects the shift in Egyptian political priorities since 2011. Those were the days of the Arab Spring, when North Africans inspired the democratic world with cries for freedom and justice. Videos of Egyptians sweeping the streets of Tahrir Square made even hardened Middle East analysts pay attention, and Egypt prepared for its first free election in recent memory.
Until last summer, when the Egyptian military overthrew the elected government of Mohammad Morsi, it seemed as though Egypt would never go back to the inequity and police brutality of a military government. With all that has happened now, can a person be blamed for thinking the very name “Mubarak,” which means “blessed” in Arabic, is reminiscent of an Arab Spring when Syria was a nice place to visit?
With all that romance in mind, Mubarak’s fate lacks a certain finesse, especially coming from the homeland of Cleopatra.
More to the point, Mubarak is getting off somewhat easily relative to Egypt’s other political Most Wanted. In a separate trial that same day, a judge gave fifty-four people life sentences for the crime of belonging to a recently disfavored political party—the Muslim Brotherhood.
Last month, 680 Egyptians were sentenced to death for involvement in a Muslim Brotherhood riot. This was the second mass death penalty sentence that month, according to the New York Times.
Mubarak may be “blessed” after all.
It seems like an anticlimactic end for the former ruler of what Arabs call Umm ad-dunya, “the mother of the world,” but short of proclaiming exile to Eritrea for all those convicted as “leaders deposed by popular revolt,” there probably isn’t much to be done.
That said, deciding on a fitting end for the likes of Mubarak might be something to focus on in the coming weeks, given the fact that Mubarak’s elected successor, Morsi, will also face trial, perhaps on charges for loitering.