Egyptian strongman Hosni Mubarak is out of jail, finally. With the court order to free the former Egyptian president, who ruled the most populous Arab nation with an iron hand for three decades, the much-vaunted Arab Spring has seen another phase. The image of a caged Mubarak in a courtroom stoically staring at the proceedings with his dark shades on, had become a leitmotif of how former dictators were being brought to justice.
His release from the Torah prison, on technical grounds, has likely come as a shock for a majority of Egyptians, who saw in his incarceration a vindication of their desire to get him punished. Mubarak was sentenced to life in prison last year for failing to prevent the killing of demonstrators during the Egyptian uprising personified by sustained protests in Tahrir Square. But a court accepted his appeal this year and ordered a retrial in the case. The former air force commander has been freed as he has already served the maximum amount of pretrial detention.
Mubarak’s freedom, though, has been severely restricted as he has been placed under house arrest. His assets remain frozen. Egypt has been in turmoil for more than two years and the latest turn of events has only made the crisis more complicated. The interim military-backed government last week removed two-sit ins by Muslim Brotherhood supporters protesting the overthrow of Mohammed Mursi, who was elected by the people. The military used force in which close to 600 people, including about 50 policemen were killed. Clashes have killed a total of 1,000 people since the carnage. The crackdown on Mursi supporters drew general condemnation. Some Gulf states including Saudi Arabia, however, backed the military action.
Mohammed Mursi was deposed by the military on July 3 after thousands of Egyptians poured into the streets against the administration’s apathy to their plight. Mursi was taken into custody and has been since under house arrest.
The ups and downs in Egypt since the revolution has wreaked havoc on the country’s economy. First it was the Brotherhood-backed government that made a mess of the economy. With tourism badly hit, foreign exchange coffers started to dry up and food stock started depleting sharply. There were sporadic attacks on churches and the Christian minority complained of persecution. The exercise of making the constitution was caught in a controversy.
The unceasing turmoil in Egypt — distinct from the civil war in Syria — has taken a toll not only on its people and the social fabric but also on its institutions. Mohammed El Baradei resigned as vice president after the military crackdown that killed close to 600 people. Though there has hardly been any displacement of people, citizens are finding it hard to lead a secure existence. The revolution was triggered to oust Mubarak, but all the faults that plagued the country during his rule are back to haunt Egyptians, and some in a bigger measure•