Editorial: Compassion for Mubarak
The sentence of life imprisonment given to former Egyptian strongman Hosni Mubarak is fair punishment for the specific charges brought against him: The killing or attempted killing of protesters during the peak of the 2011 revolution that ended his three-decade rule. He was not tried and convicted for misrule or corruption that went on during his reign.
Whatever Egyptians think of him today, he had statesmanship left in him when he called it a day instead of unleashing deadly military force in February 2011. We should compare him to Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi, who used the full force of his military to quell protesters only to be mangled and shot to death after he lost power. One hates to think what will happen to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad when his time comes up.
A death sentence, as demanded by his critics, would have perpetuated the culture of vengeance in Egypt. Although he is now out of power, Mubarak still enjoys widespread support.
Even if his loyalists retain some power — his last prime minister is contesting the runoff presidential election this month — we are talking about a new, democratic Egypt where power has been diffused and made more accountable. The Mubarak loyalists, the Muslim Brotherhood or whoever is in charge, will have to share power and account for their power. Fear not. There will be no return of a Mubarak-style dictatorship, even if his loyalists retain some control.
For what it’s worth, Indonesia did the right thing in not exacting vengeance against Soeharto after he lost power in 1998. He ducked court trials with his highly paid lawyers claiming that he was mentally unfit. But even if Soeharto had been convicted, president Abdurrahman “Gus Dur” Wahid would have immediately issued a pardon and Soeharto would not have to serve a single night in jail. For good or for bad, Soeharto, like Mubarak, served his nation.
An act of compassion for an ageing and sick Mubarak is precisely what Egypt needs today. Leave the past behind, and look to the future. Egyptians have so much to offer for themselves and the world.