Change in Status for Mubarak Represents Bigger Change in Egyptian Constitution

Amid the chaos of recent protests and suppression within Egypt, another drama has been playing out. This one involves the country’s former president, Hosni Mubarak, who was deposed by the 2011 uprising, most commonly known in the Middle East as the Arab Spring.

According to Reuters (courtesy of Huffington Post), the prison where Mubarak was currently being held issued the following statement, “In the context of emergency law, the deputy military commander issued an order that Mohamed Hosni Mubarak should be put under house arrest.” After two years of incarceration, the former Egyptian leader was moved from his prison cell to a military hospital.

Reaction among people of Egypt, some protests avoided

Even among those who supported the downfall and arrest of Mubarak, things have gotten complicated politically. According to the New York Times, this release added fuel to the fire of any already angry group of Islamists, who had already taken to the streets to rally against the change in Egypt’s leadership, when a democratically elected President Mohamed Morsi was deposed.

Among those who called off their protests regarding Mubarak’s change of status is the April 6 Group, an organization that championed the demise of the former leader. In a statement from the group’s leadership, their initial rally was called off “to avoid the shedding of more Egyptian blood,” according to the New York Times. In part, this group did not want to be associated with the pro-Muslim Brotherhood Islamists, and they felt they might be misinterpreted thus.

There were also fears that the protests against a lessening of punishment for Mubarak might be skewed to be support for Morsi or, worse, lead to violence for its members as a result of the association. In short, the April 6 Group did not want to be used by the supporters of Morsi.

New government’s break with the Old

The change of status to house arrest for Hosni Mubarak also demonstrated a clear break by the new government with old Morsi policies. Under the Morsi regime, a continuing series of charges were leveled in court against Former President Mubarak. Under the new administration, use of the court system was replaced with a military-style means of keeping Mubarak out of the public eye and away from the bully pulpit.

Return of Mubarak to a familiar site

Unlike other times, Hosni Mubarak, 85, was dressed in civilian clothing (khaki pants, white shirt, loafers and sunglasses) and transferred via hospital gurney from prison. Arriving via medical helicopter, he was carried into the hospital (where he has been treated before) by soldiers. He cradled his head and provided a small smile for observers at the scene.

House arrest, but what house?

It was Mubarak’s choice to return to the hospital, given his ill health (although some have suggested not all the bad health reports have been accurate). However, it may have been that he simply had few viable choices otherwise. For most of the time previous to his incarceration, he resided in Egyptian-owned presidential palaces.

Mubarak does own a mansion in Sharm el-Sheikh, a resort area along the Red Sea, but this residence has come under legal entanglements because of the charges of corruption leveled against him. Both of Mubarak’s sons (Alaa and Gamal) are in prison themselves.

Change in status, change in Constitution

In part, the decision to change Hosni Mubarak’s status was the result of a political reversal on a much bigger scale. The religious component (Shariah law) included in the revised Egyptian constitution by Morsi and an Islamic parliament has been reversed under the new Egyptian military leadership.

These changes are expected to pass quickly through a ruling committee and then be put up via national referendum for approval by all Egyptians.