“Everyone was acquitted, everyone. Not a single person was convicted,” shouted a man standing in front of the bakery shop near my house. It was one of the very rare times where I knew breaking news from a source other than Twitter. “It’s a country of pimps,” replied the young man working in the bakery.
I continued walking to my destination: Heliopolis Club. I overheard the same comment from a shop employee meters away from the bakery. “They were all acquitted,” he said. Inside Heliopolis Club, a bastion of Sisi support, I overheard 3 men discussing the breaking news of the day. Two agreed that Mubarak should have been acquitted; “Not the police chiefs though,” reiterated one of these men.
The shock that followed the Mubarak verdict was not a result of his own acquittal. In fact, many believe Mubarak when he assured several times that he never ordered the killing of protesters. The shock is mainly emanating from the fact that all convicts, including the hated former Minister of Interior Habib El Adly, were acquitted of any wrongdoing.
“I am happy Mubarak was found innocent. He did not do a thing,” said our housekeeper. “El Adly should have been sentenced though,” she continued.
Besides pro-revolution sentiments, this verdict upset many average apolitical Egyptians for a reason that might not be connected to politics. The verdict was yet another reminder that, in Egypt, you can be off the hook if you have the right connections and status.
While it is true that evidence of killing protesters was manipulated and corrupted, the initial verdict in 2012 was life in prison for Mubarak and El Adly. You don’t go from life in prison to acquittal unless you are living in a banana republic.
So, did the judge get a phone call from someone high up to issue this verdict? Is the whole Egyptian judicial system so politicized to this degree? It is easy to assume that this is the case. Unfortunately, reality is far more complex. There are several cases where judges ruled against the government and issued verdicts that don’t necessarily coincide with the benefits of the ruling regime in Egypt. For example, Mubarak used to send Muslim Brotherhood leaders to military courts to avoid the maze of the civilian courts. MB strongman Khairat El Shater was sent to a military court to be tried in a case which he was cleared from in the civilian court. The answer to this question is not easy and needs extensive research to understand what really drives some of Egypt’s judges to make such bizarre decisions.
This verdict will not yield any significant ramifications in the time being. Today, anything is sacrificed on the “altar of stability”. The desire of millions of Egyptian to maintain stability and return back to their normal lives will consume anything. However, this verdict and the other blunders of the Egyptian regime are like small ignited pieces of coal under this altar. If Egyptians did not feel any improvement in their daily lives in the near future, these pieces of coal will create a massive fire that will burn the entire country and not just the altar.