by Eyal Zisser
For more than a year, the trial of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak proceeded at a sluggish pace. Mubarak was tried along with his two sons, Alaa and Gamal, as well as other high-ranking officials from his regime, among them former Interior Minister Habib el-Adly.
At first, Egypt's ruling Supreme Military Council did not even want to put Mubarak on trial. Pressure from the street, however, forced the generals to detain the man who had appointed them to their positions and nurtured them over the years, and throw him behind bars.
And now, after a year of deferrals and delays, the trial is suddenly over after the court rushed to announce its verdict. It is clear that it is no coincidence Mubarak's trial ended when it did, on the eve of the second and deciding round of voting in Egypt's presidential election.
Egypt after the revolution is different from the Egypt we once knew. We should give the judges the benefit of the doubt that they actually wrote their own decision, free of the political dictates and pressures that were the real law during Mubarak's reign. And yet the ruling has a greater significance that no one in Egypt can ignore.
The judges convicted Mubarak and his interior minister, but acquitted his sons and other regime officials. In doing so, the judges tried to separate Mubarak the man from the system of governance that existed under him and that has remained largely in place, even a year after he was deposed.
The message is clear: The Egyptian revolution must be understood as an act that was intended to topple Mubarak. Now that he is gone and has been sentenced to life in prison, the revolution has achieved its goals and has reached its end.
Mubarak was found guilty of the killing of protesters during the final days of his rule, as if the problem wasn't his first 30 years of corrupt dictatorial rule, for which he was not tried. That is why all his advisers and associates standing trial were acquitted — to distinguish between the ruler who went astray and the system of rule itself.
The court's ruling provides a strong tailwind of support for Gen. Ahmed Shafiq, the presidential candidate associated with the old regime. It was also likely meant to, but covertly. If the problem was merely Mubarak the man and not his regime, and if the public's rage was aimed at his conduct during his final days in power and not against the first 30 years of his rule, then nothing should prevent Shafiq, a minister in most of Mubarak's governments throughout the years, from being elected president.
The Egyptian court's ruling will be judged by Egyptian voters in about a week's time. If Shafiq wins, it means that the Egyptian street wants to bring the revolution to an end and is satisfied with Mubarak's sentence. If Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohammed Morsi wins, it will mean that the revolution is far from over, and that the people's demands did not end with Mubarak's trial.
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