A string of Egyptian court rulings has slowly but surely been sending a message to liberals and hard-liners alike: business as usual is back. The biggest of these decision came yesterday, as an appeals court overturned former President Hosni Mubarak’s last remaining conviction. The Financial Times reports:
In a brief session shown live on television on Tuesday the Court of Cassation ordered a retrial in the corruption case for the former president and his sons.The ruling paves the way for Mr Mubarak’s release, although legal experts say his term would have expired this month anyway because of time he has already spent in detention related to other cases from which he has been exonerated.
Mubarak’s old kleptocratic cronies, who still occupy many prominent government positions, will breathe a sigh of relief; liberals who had high hopes for the Arab Spring in Egypt will feel the latest in a series of deep disappointments. But there’s something for them, too: another court ordered the release of a group of men arrested in a raid on a gay bathhouse. And a third ordered a retrial (and probable eventual release) of three al Jazeera journalists who have been jailed for over a year.The message is clear—there’s a little bit for everyone (or a lot if you’re a regime supporter), provided you’re not Muslim Brotherhood and/or that you don’t challenge the regime. The Al Jazeera ruling also placates Western governments and Qatar, with whom Saudi Arabia is trying to reconcile.At the same time, it’s not a coincidence that these measures are all small steps. Not only does that avoid antagonizing those who will be upset by them, it also makes it clear to those “let off” that their reprieve is conditional on Sisi’s goodwill.This is business as usual for Egypt to anyone who remembers the Mubarak regime—just under new management.