Mubarak Won’t Be Making a Comeback, but His Release from Prison Is a Bad Sign for Egypt

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Aug. 22 2013 11:46 AM

Hosni Has Left the Building

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Supporters of ex-Egyptian PresidentHosni Mubarak gather outside the police academy in Cairo during a hearing in his retrial on July 6, 2013.

Photo by Gianluigi Guercia/AFP/Getty Images

Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has reportedly been transported by medical helicopter from Egypt’s Tora prison. The court ordered his release yesterday after a corruption charge against him was settled earlier this week.

Keep in mind, Mubarak has not actually been freed. He’s being placed under house arrest and still faces numerous charges of corruption and brutality as well as a retrial on the charge of failing to prevent the killing of hundreds of demonstrators during the 2011 uprising, for which he was sentenced to life in prison last year. His sons Alaa and Gamal will remain in jail facing corruption charges. And at 85 years old and in poor health, Mubarak’s political career is behind him. (Undaunted, some supporters have already set up a Facebook page supporting his candidacy for president next year.)

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All the same, as the proceedings against him roll on, it seems quite possible that the dictator against whom Egyptians revolted two years ago could be able to live out the rest of his days in comfort. Meanwhile, Mohammed Morsi, the president Egyptians elected, remains in jail facing criminal charges that could carry the death penalty. The spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood was arrested just this week, and 38 members of the Brotherhood were killed in prison under mysterious circumstances last weekend.

It would be going too far to say that everything is “back to where it started.” The situation is far too unstable and fluid for that. But while Mubarak himself may be permanently off the political stage, the remnants of the state he helped build live on—and his supporters are more confident than ever. 

Joshua Keating is a staff writer at Slate focusing on international affairs and writes the World blog.