Finally, Hosni Mubarak has been punished

The King has not just been dethroned, but humiliated and punished.

Kamna Arora

He ruled Egypt for almost 30 years. Now, he will languish in prison for his remaining life. The King has not just been dethroned, but humiliated and punished. Muhammad Hosni Sayyid Mubarak has been jailed for life for ordering troops to open fire on demonstrators during last year`s 18-day uprising that forced him to resign on February 11.

Over 850 protesters were killed, most shot to death, during the demonstrations that were tried to be crushed by security forces.

The verdict has obviously failed to satisfy those who lost their loved ones in a violence that could have been avoided, if the top officials and of course Mubarak wanted to. The protesters are demanding `death to the devil`. The frail Mubarak heard the verdict silently; just like he must have watched the cries of huge crowds in Cairo`s Tahrir Square and blood-stained bodies last year.
But undoubtedly, the trial is historic.

The verdict was announced in a makeshift court which is actually a lecture hall once named after Hosni Mubarak in Cairo. The 84-year-old former Egyptian president would have never foreseen such a fall from grace.

With this verdict, Hosni Mubarak has become the first Arab leader to be tried by his own people in the country following the Arab Spring. The verdict serves as a warning to those who are ruling their country as personal fiefdom.

In a strongly-worded statement before handing down the sentences, Judge Ahmed Rifaat described Mubarak`s era as "30 years of darkness" and "a darkened nightmare".

"They (Egyptians) peacefully demanded democracy from rulers who held tight grip on power," the judge said.

The Jasmine Revolution in Tunisia had served as the catalyst for the `Nile Revolution` in Egypt. Rampant corruption, high unemployment, widespread poverty, rising prices and autocracy were the key drivers of the unrest.

Middle East experts suggest that Mubarak`s family fortune could be as much as USD 70 billion. His sons, Gamal and Alaa, are also billionaires. However, 40 percent of the 80 million Egyptians live on less than USD 2 a day. A report by the Global Financial Integrity said crime and corruption cost Egypt approximately USD 6 billion per year. Nearly 30 percent population is illiterate in Egypt and the unemployment rate is reportedly 34 percent for people aged 25 and under.

This explains why Hosni Mubarak was such a hated figure in the country.

In 1975, he was appointed as vice president by the then president Anwar El-Sadat. He ascended to the top job in October 1981 in the wake of President Sadat’s assassination by Islamic extremists. Mubarak henceforth became Egypt`s fourth president.

He earned prestige as a key negotiator on the Palestinian crisis. He was closely involved in negotiating the Camp David peace agreement with Israel in 1979, winning billions in US aid. Egypt has since then been a key ally of the West.

However, throughout his rule Mubarak presided over a period of domestic stability, using constitutional manipulation and rigged polls. His draconian emergency laws and a hated police force had also been fuelling anger among his countrymen.

But when Tunisians successfully overthrew their autocratic ruler, Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, on January 14 last year, repressed Egyptians were motivated to replicate the event in their country. Thanks to social networking websites, hundreds of thousands of demonstrators joined hands to oust Mubarak from power.

Albeit the embattled leader tried to convince people by offering political concessions and appointing a vice president, yet the hoi polloi were not convinced. On February 10, Mubarak announced in a televised speech that he would keep his title and handed over some of his powers to Vice President Omar Suleiman. But suddenly on February 11, he handed over power to the military and left Cairo. It was an unprecedented end to a carefully-scripted era of Mubarak.

The harsh sentence against Mubarak is likely to stoke more tensions ahead of a divisive runoff presidential race scheduled for June 16-17 in polarized Egypt. In the most populous Arab state, many believe that Egypt was peaceful under Mubarak’s 30-year rule. Others, however, believe that Mubarak pushed the country deep down into corruption.

The presidential runoff between Mubarak`s close ally and former prime minister Ahmed Shafiq and Islamist candidate Mohamed Morsi tells it all.

The emperor has fallen, but it is yet to be seen whether his empire will survive his pawn.

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