When former President Hosni Mubarak was acquitted of corruption in January 2015, analysts had already predicted it as a foregone conclusion. For many it was evidence that the deep state existed.
The deep state is a phrase that would regularly become associated with Egyptian politics after the 2011 revolution. Sadat, Mubarak, Al-Sisi – these are disposable faces of an old military guard in charge of Egypt, who are not prepared to give up the privileges that come with that.
And so, at the behest of protesters and the international community who rallied behind the 2011 Egyptian uprising in the early days at least, this deep state sacrificed Mubarak to appear to offer concessions, but would later quietly let him go. His confidants spoke of a deal between himself – one of their own – and the military, which would placate the public and ensure business as usual for the ancien régime.
Before the Arab Spring, a number of articles circulated suggesting that the generals were not happy with the fact that Mubarak was grooming his son, Gamal, to succeed him.
Whilst Mubarak had a career in Egypt’s air force, Gamal was not a military man. As an outsider it could not be guaranteed that he would protect the army’s monopoly over the economy, the revenue it reaped from the restaurants, clubs, factories and hotels they owned, or 40 per cent of the economy as it has been estimated.
Gamal had been associated with a series of neoliberal privatisation reforms, unpopular with many Egyptians who felt he symbolised the corrupt business elite, the gap between rich and poor, and the continuation of nepotism at the detriment to democracy.
In January 2011, hundreds and thousands of demonstrators took to the streets to demand that the Mubarak family relinquish power. On February 11 2011, after an 18-day uprising, Mubarak eventually stepped down and was put on trial. One of the accusations against him was for inciting the deaths of 239 protesters.
As the former president and his sons later gazed out from behind a cage in the Egyptian courtroom, accused on another charge of diverting public funds and using the money to upgrade their own properties, it was a humiliation many would never have thought possible during the dictator’s 30-year rule over the country.
This is a man who implemented martial law across the country, which gave security forces the cover to detain members of the opposition without warrants, try them in military courts, and to exert control over the press. Mubarak was a close ally of the US and maintained the country’s peace agreement with Israel.
Then there was the corruption and profiteering. By the time of the Arab Spring, several newspapers estimated that Mubarak’s fortune was worth some $70 billion. Two months later, the Washington Post said that the sum of assets appropriated by Mubarak’s family was more than $700 billion, and that they had hidden their fortune in different countries across the world.
At the time, a quarter of the country lived below the poverty line and schools, roads, hospitals and public services were deteriorating.
Despite the fact that Mubarak was sentenced to life in prison in 2012, he spent most of his time in a military hospital, which activists at the time compared to the cramped, rodent infested cells members of the opposition are kept in between torture sessions.
Reports revealed that at Al-Maadi Military Hospital the former president was enjoying regular deliveries of flowers, newspapers and take-aways, family visits and a view of the Nile. He eventually left in 2017 after Egypt’s highest appeals court acquitted him of conspiring to kill protesters.
The impunity of Mubarak-era cronies has been continual since then. In November 2014 the Cairo Criminal Court also acquitted his former interior minister, Habib Al-Adly, and six other interior ministry officials, whilst the business tycoon Hussein Salem, who was fined $4 billion for money laundering in 2011, reached a half million dollar reconciliation agreement with the government.
Three days before Mubarak died his sons were acquitted of illicit share trading during the sale of a bank. All this is under a regime that has imprisoned 60,000 political prisoners and tortured hundreds to death. This only proves that even after his death, Mubarak’s legacy – corruption, impunity, and brutality – will succeed him.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.