Earlier today it was announced that former President of Egypt, Hosni Mubarak, will be released from prison after two years in captivity. He has been reportedly cleared of all charges of corruption. Although he still faces trial for conspiracy to murder protestors, the maximum of two years without verdict have officially been exceeded. According to Egyptian authorities he can no longer legally be held.
The reaction that is sure to follow is both appropriate and understandable. Many Egyptians viewed Mubarak’s imprisonment as a symbol of the Egyptian people’s authority over their government. Letting Mubarak go sends the message that, ultimately, authority lies elsewhere.
To both outside observers and many Egyptians, this is not a surprising revelation.
Yet, Mubarak’s release is still important because it threatens to further fragment Egyptian society. While protestors in Tahrir may have applauded the military’s removal of President Morsi from power, it is hard to imagine that they will overlook the reversal of their greatest and most tangible victory. With Mubarak free, it will be increasingly difficult to ignore that the people and the military are no longer “one hand.”
It is difficult to see what the interim government’s reasoning could be for allowing Mubarak to go free. Up until this point, the military had successfully co-opted public opinion in their fight against the Muslim Brotherhood. In releasing Mubarak from jail, they risk alienating nationalist protestors who have been their largest base of support so far. One shudders to think of the violence that could ensue if the nationalist protestors turn on the military and receive a response similar to what the Muslim Brotherhood has gotten.
Now all eyes should be on Tahrir. It is impossible for the protestors to ignore the counter-revolution anymore.
Please note that the views expressed in this piece do not represent the official policy or position of the National Defense University, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. government.