At this point, it's pretty safe to say Hosni Mubarak is an awful human being. For 30 years, he ruled Egypt with an iron fist, killing and imprisoning dissenters at will. Luckily, the Arab Spring of 2011 saw Mubarak dethroned and tossed into a posh cage, where he would presumably have plenty of time to sit and think about his crimes against humanity. Apparently it's not taken long to repent. This week, an Egyptian court announced the former dictator may be allowed to walk free within the next 48 hours. Odd as it may sound, this gross miscarriage of justice may be a good thing.
It's been over a month since Egypt's first democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsi, was overthrown by a swift and well-executed coup d'état. The people of Egypt rejoiced, and western powers cautiously voiced support for Morsi's fall. The elation was somewhat warranted; after all, it was becoming increasingly clear Morsi had been letting his presidential powers get the better of him, and that he was effectively becoming a de-facto dictator. With his pals from the Muslim Brotherhood in tow, Hosni Mubarak's successor established a new Egyptian autocracy that ignored the voices of minorities and ensured a skewed body of representatives in government. Fairly elected or not, Egypt's liberal secularists finally decided they wanted nothing to do with their new Islamist government - and subsequently greeted yet another military takeover with sheer delight. Yet the consequences of that coup are becoming increasingly convoluted.
Almost 1,000 civilians have thus far been butchered by Egypt's interim rulers - who are only just now starting to show their true colours as a military junta. Busloads of political prisoners have been massacred, mosques have been desecrated and daily life has come to a stand-still as Egyptian generals continue their quest to see the Muslim Brotherhood completely exterminated. Yet even as the last discernible voices of reason start to abandon ship, Egypt's liberal secularists have yet to openly condemn their new government. Perhaps the imminent release of Hosni Mubarak will open their eyes.
Egypt is headed everywhere but democracy. Sure, Mohamed Morsi was clearly not helping the country get back on its feet. Yet the Egyptian military proves a gloomy alternative. By taking sides with smiling army officials, the country's democracy-hungry liberals took a gargantuan leap of faith. They naïvely assumed the nation's greying generals - who clearly enjoyed ruling Cairo for 18 months between the tenures of Hosni Mubarak and Mohamed Morsi - would have no appetite whatsoever for power, and would just 'hand the country back' after a few weeks. That gamble may yet turn out to be the biggest fail of the year.
On August 18, military forces executed 36 Muslim Brotherhood detainees for no apparent reason. The following day, Islamist militants retaliated by killing 26 policemen in Sinai. Make no mistake: this violence will only continue to escalate. Meanwhile, Egypt's generals are clearly too preoccupied with eradicating political parties to notice they've effortlessly surpassed Mohamed Morsi's most sadistic displays of power. Yet until Egypt's secular idealists can unite to deliver a list of concrete demands to the military, any dreams of democracy will continue to float beyond the nation's reach.
So, does Hosni Mubarak deserve to walk free? Of course not. But maybe that disgusting image of the old dictator getting wheeled out of prison and into some gold-plated retirement community in Sharm el-Sheikh will push someone into taking a stand - because somebody needs to, and the clock is ticking.