On Thursday, former president Hosni Mubarak was pictured as he was being transferred from jail to a hospital. The footage caused a variety of reactions. Some showed sheer opposition, others instead manifested their nostalgia for Mubarak's regime. The transfer was legally justified as Mubarak has served the maximum time in pretrial detention which is two years in Egyptian penal law.
How did we get to this?
After 30 years in power, Mubarak announced in early February 2011 that he was stepping down. Former Vice President Omar Suleiman announced Mubarak was going to step down on February 10, handing over executive powers to the military council.
On May 24, 2011, judicial officials announced that Mubarak and his two sons were going to be put to trial over the suppression of the anti-government protesters earlier that year. On June 2, 2012, Mubarak and his former interior minister, Habib Al-Adly, were sentenced to life imprisonment.
However, in January of this year, Egypt's Court of Cassation accepted Mubarak's request for an appeal over the killings. This was also followed by the acceptance of the same request by the former minister and Mubarak's two sons.
The trial started again this May. It was a bumpy road until August. Because of political conditions, the trial was adjourned several times. The last time this happened was in fact on August 17, as violence increased in protests against the military's removal of Mohammed Morsi.
Last Monday, Mubarak was acquitted of one of the charges he was being put to trial for: embezzlement of public funds. Along with the killing of demonstrators from early in 2011, the charges against Mubarak regarding management of public finances and illegally acquired wealth represented the second pillar of the prosecution.
Initially, there seemed to be plenty of ground to charge Mubarak with life imprisonment. According to Article 18 of Law 62 of 1975, every individual who gains illicit revenue can be subject to imprisonment. Also, according to Article 112 of the penal code, embezzling public funds by committing document forgery can lead to life imprisonment. These two factors came along the charge regarding Mubarak's alleged transfer of public funds to foreign banks, which should add one to six years of imprisonment.
However, the law in this case is not set in stone. It all depended on the context of 2011. After Morsi's new constitution and the offensive reform of the judiciary this April, the stakes may have changed as the procedural basis has become more opaque.
The reason for the acquittal has not yet been clarified. The implication is that the prosecution could not generate a burden of proof regarding the allegation, which was unexpected. While some exponents of the Muslim Brotherhood such as Mona Al-Qazzaz go as far as to say that it is the product of a "mafia" tying the military, the media, and the judiciary, there is still a small chance that the acquittal came out of genuine legal understanding.
Still, nobody explained why the allegations do not stand.
At least the trial is not over. Mubarak will still have to answer questions about killings of the protesters of January 2011. Yet, while there is still plenty of ground for Mubarak's complete removal from the political scene, the acquittal was a low hit for the widespread opposition to Mubarak.
As we wait for clarifications regarding the court decision, there is little doubt that the image of his transfer to the hospital was anything but beneficial to the mercurial atmosphere of Cairo.
What had seemed to be the complete downfall of a dictator has been undermined. Egypt's public is now left with less evidence to argue that what is happening right now is not a counter-revolution against what the people had started in January 2011.