The release of Alaa and Gamal Mubarak was seen as a staggering blow to the January 25 Revolution by its supporters. While the Mubarak brothers were released on bail in accordance with article 143 of the Criminal Procedures Law, which states that preventive detention should not exceed 18 months, the uneasiness with which the ruling was greeted was not surprising. Between the symbolic failure of the revolution and the actual repercussions of their possible return to the public scene lie numerous concerns, speculations, and apprehensions.
Legal experts argue that it was impossible to keep Alaa and Gamal Mubarak detained any longer. “Only in cases where capital punishment is applicable can defendants be detained pending trial for two years instead of a year and a half,”says Judge Ahmed Haroun, head of the Cairo Criminal Court. The Mubarak sons are not facing charges in which the death penalty can be applied, but upon their re-trial in the pending corruption cases, it will be up to the court to return them to jail as the trial proceeds. According to law professor and former dean of the Law School at Cairo University Mahmoud Kobeish, if they do not show up at the trial, arrest warrants will be issued for both of them. A retrial date has yet to be set.
Apart from the technicalities of the verdict, the bigger question is how it will play out now that Gamal and Alaa have been released. Much of this has focused on Gamal, since among the driving forces behind the 2011 uprising was the belief that he was being groomed as heir-apparent to the Egyptian presidency.
Speculations are rife in the Egyptian media about whether Gamal intends to keep a low profile or plans to restore his past influence. Former Member of Parliament Abdullah al-Mughazi, and a supporter of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, linkedGamal’s release to the August 2014 release of business tycoon and secretary general of the now defunct National Democratic Party (NDP) Ahmed Ezz, who was also one of Gamal’s closest aides. “They are likely to attempt to reunite NDP members, especially since Ezz has already announced his intention to run in parliamentary elections and is reported to have met with several leaders in the disbanded party,” he said. According to Judge Refaat al-Sayed, Alaa and Gamal can both vote and run in national elections since neither has been convicted. Nothing has been said, however, about Gamal exercising this political right, while Ezz has already submitted the papers for his candidacy, as has his wife.
Parliamentary elections are not seen as the only channel through which Gamal might try to regain his influence. According to political analyst Ammar Ali Hassan, money could be a main factor in the equation. “The Mubarak sons, together with members of the former regime, are expected to curry favor with the current regime by offering it financial support,” he writes. “But if President Sisi gives in, his popularity will be deeply affected and the relationship between the people and the state is bound to sour.” Hassan also notes that the Mubarak regime was never truly uprooted, it could easily make a return. “All the ruling regimes since the revolution have not really taken enough measures to eliminate the influence of Mubarak’s men.”
The return of Gamal Mubarak to the political scene is seen by many as next to impossible. Sameh Ashour, the head of the Lawyer’s Syndicate believes the Mubaraks have lost any support they may have had. “Their influence came to an end once people rose against them,” he says. “Those who supported Gamal did so to serve their interests at the time when he was influential. Now, nothing is to be gained from any alliance with him.” Ashour admits that some members of the former regime might take part in the elections, but he believes their only asset is money, and that they do not enjoy popular support.
Journalist Abdullah al-Sinnawi argues that no faction or party would agree to form an alliance with Gamal. “The last thing political figures need now is to associate their names with the Mubarak regime, especially since Gamal and Alaa might go back to prison.” Sinnawi also notes that Gamal’s failure in the political domain is expected to discourage people from supporting him if he decides to return. “Gamal Mubarak failed in running the country when he was head of the NDP’s Policies Committee and his role in the political scene was a major reason for the January 25 Revolution.”
Those who find it unlikely for Gamal Mubarak to find a place in the Egyptian political scene are probably right. After all, Gamal’s possible inheritance of power made him just as hated as his father. In fact, while some Egyptians may have sympathy for Hosni Mubarak, citing his age, or the necessary respect a former leader should be afforded, Gamal has not earned a similar respect within these circles. While news has already circulated that Gamal may run in the 2018 presidential elections, this seems to be the product of nothing more than an overactive rumor mill, especially in light of the popularity the current president enjoys. If any member of the Mubarak family is to have any influence, be it economic or political, this will likely not happen without a green light from the current regime. However, even if they remain ostracized from Egypt’s political life, the release of the Mubaraks is a major defeat to a revolution in which no one has been held accountable for thirty years of corruption, abuse of power, and tyranny.