Pardon Mubarak? No way, say revolutionary groups

The independent newspaper Al-Shorouq set off a fire storm earlier this week when it reported that former President Hosni Mubarak is preparing a letter asking for forgiveness from the Egyptian people and offering to relinquish his wealth in exchange for a pardon.

The former president, who was ousted on 11 February following an unprecedented 18 days of protests, is currently in a hospital in Sharm el-Sheikh and under investigation on a host of corruption and abuse of power charges.

For most of the activists who took part in the anti-Mubarak uprising, the idea of pardoning the 83-year-old former president is out of the question. As the investigations of other regime figures heat up, with some already being released from jail, it is an important lesson.

Al-Shorouq’s suggestion of the possibility of an apology letter was enough to draw the ire of many on social media networks. On Facebook, some users accused Al-Shorouq of running the story to test the waters on public reaction to a pardon for Mubarak.

“This decision cannot be taken by any party because it was the Egyptian people who were affected by corruption for 30 years,” said Mona Ezzat of the New Left Party. “The only way to reach such a conclusion is by holding a referendum to establish the people's opinions."

Nabil Zaki, a spokesperson for the leftist Tagammuu Party, was similarly incensed. "We demand the accountability of all figures of the former regime regarding the crimes they committed against the people, in front of civil courts, so as to establish credibility and transparency in the coming period," Zaki said.

During a campaign tour, left-wing presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabahy criticized the news of the pardon and shared his harsh disapproval of any apology, also stressing that Mubarak and other figures from his regime should face fair and public trials. "We will not accept a bribe from the ousted Mubarak at the expense of not trying him after he wasted and stole the state's money," Sabahy said.

Mubarak’s wife, Suzanne, was also taken in on corruption charges but was released on bail and is still facing an investigation. On Thursday, Ibrahim Kamel, a Mubarak ally and the alleged orchestrator of some of the uprising’s worst violence, was released on bail. While no regime figures have yet received the kind of pardon that Al-Shorouq reported Mubarak as requesting, there is a seeming trend toward leniency.

If it reaches Mubarak himself, activists say they will take the matter very seriously, including threatening a million-person march in Cairo.

Karima al-Hefnawy of the pro-democracy groups Kefaya and the National Association for Change, believes that Mubarak is attempting to coordinate his safe exit from prison without facing harsh charges.

"First, since Mubarak stepped down, the military junta left him for two months to settle his papers and configure his financial situation. Afterwards, he started to allege sickness to receive special treatment, and the other figures of his regime staying in a five-star hotel in Tora started to use thugs to threaten the security of the state", Hefnawy said.

"The third stage is the security chaos, which the SCAF [Supreme Council of the Armed Forces] and Essam Sharaf's government are responsible for, I believe. Different movements presented suggestions to end this state of lawlessness, but nothing was done. Fourth, until now there is no judicial ruling to retrieve Egyptian money from abroad. Fifth, for the first time, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi appears on screen to talk about the critical economic and security situation, although the main reason for this situation is that they didn't meet the urgent demands of the public."

"Then they tell us we are going to starve, so why don't we agree to pardon him so that we can make use of the money he'll give up?" Hefnawy said.

The democracy activist accused the former president of being guilty of a range of crimes, from negligence in the case of infrastructure disasters, to shooting protesters, to authoring a crooked deal to sell gas to Israel, among others.

"We want a fair trial, or else we can organize more than one million-man march," she said.

A pardon may not be completely out of the question, though, according to some activists, but that decision should not come from the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces or the prosecution.

"Those who can decide to pardon or not are the direct victims of Mubarak, the families of martyrs and those who lived in poverty and ignorance for 30 years," said Abul Rahman Samir of the 25 January Revolution Youth Coalition, echoing other calls for a national referendum.

So what are the chances of a pardon for Mubarak, legally speaking? According to Ahmed Mekky, Vice-President of the Court of Cassation, a legal pardon would be a twofold process, if Mubarak and his family requested it.

A pardon is a legal option in the interim constitution, Mekki said, but it can only be given once sentence – either prison or death – has already been passed, not simply after the return of funds. A general amnesty, meanwhile, requires that a law be passed by the ruling authority.

Moreover, a pardon for Mubarak and his wife would at this time be impossible because the proceedings of the criminal cases against them are ongoing and no conviction has been secured.

"The two parts of the pardon are a political procedure, not judicial, meaning that the ruling authority should represent the will of its people,” said Mekky. “So if it wants to take such an action it should first discuss it with the people by a referendum, for example, and explain to them the reasons of taking the decision."

The ruling military council issued a statement on its official Facebook page, saying, "The Council does not intervene in one way or another in the legal procedures for bringing figures of the former regime to account."

Mekky stressed that the pardon does not substitute the right of the victims to be compensated and the money to be returned to the country.

"However, any decision or opinion must be made after the pardon request is presented, stating the reasons of the request and the actions for which Mubarak wants to be pardoned," Mekky said. "Those who state their opinion now are rushing things; there is still no trial or conviction."

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