A Tale of Two Egyptians

Hosni Mubarak and Mohammed Morsi ruled over two very different Egypts, but both found themselves before the country's legal system.

Top Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood leaders Essam el-Erian (C) and Mohamed Beltagy (R) gesture with fellow accused from the defendents cage during their trial alongside 14 others, including former Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, at a court in the capital, Cairo, on April 21, 2015. An Egyptian court sentenced Morsi to 20 years over abuses of protesters but acquitted him of charges that would have seen the Islamist leader face the death penalty. AFP PHOTO / MOHAMED EL-SHAHED (Photo credit should read MOHAMED EL-SHAHED/AFP/Getty Images)

They are two men who ruled over very different Egypts — one an authoritarian leader who led the country for three decades, and the other a democratically elected president who held onto power for only 12 months.

As Arab leaders, Hosni Mubarak and Mohamed Morsi now also share a once-unprecedented experience: facing charges of violence and embezzlement in front of their own country’s courts.

Morsi was found guilty Tuesday of ordering arrests and torture during demonstrations in Cairo in December 2012. He narrowly escaped murder charges that could have meant facing the death penalty.

The Muslim Brotherhood leader lasted only a year in power after Mubarak’s disgraceful exit from the presidential palace in 2011. Morsi was sworn in just weeks after an Egyptian judge sentenced Mubarak to life in prison in 2012, calling the dictator’s 30 years in power “a darkened nightmare” for Egypt.

After he resigned from his office in early 2011, Mubarak became the first Arab leader to ever confront his home country’s legal system after being ousted by his constituency. He was charged with embezzlement of public funds, illicit acquisition of wealth, misrepresentation of his wealth, and the killings of demonstrators demanding regime change in Cairo’s central Tahrir Square that focused the world on the Arab Spring revolutions that shook the Middle East.

Mubarak’s wife and two sons were also charged with acquiring illicit revenue, although his wife was detained for only 15 days in a women’s prison in Cairo and was released after she relinquished her assets to the Egyptian government. His two sons were released in January, after being cleared at the same time as their father last November.

Those court decisions were made following a retrial ordered on a technicality, on charges that he was complicit in the 2011 killings of more than 800 protesters in Tahrir. Since then, Mubarak has been under house arrest in a military hospital serving time on various charges, including a separate three-year term on embezzlement charges.

Now the 86-year-old, who recently appeared in court wearing sunglasses on a stretcher, is nearing freedom just in time for Morsi to settle in for 20 years behind bars.

Morsi, the country’s first freely elected leader, still faces charges in several other capital cases, including leaking information to Qatar and revealing classified information to Egyptian-labeled militant groups including Hamas and Hezbollah.

According to the Library of Congress, he is also accused of defaming the judiciary during a 2013 speech when he accused 23 judges of falsifying the 2005 parliamentary elections. And, somewhat strangely, he faces charges for escaping from prison during the uprisings against Mubarak in 2011, a crime for which he won’t necessarily be forgiven despite that the fact he was elected president shortly afterward.

Since Morsi was ousted from office by then-Defense Minister Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, thousands of his Muslim Brotherhood supporters have been arrested and charged by the sitting government. In July 2013, hundreds were killed by security officials after clashes at a pro-Morsi sit-in in Cairo.

Morsi was sentenced Tuesday alongside 12 co-defendants, who were also found guilty of complicity in those charges. After interrupting a previous court hearing to declare himself the rightful president, Morsi and his compatriots were kept behind soundproof walls to ensure an orderly courtroom.

On Tuesday, those found guilty defiantly listened to their sentences with their hands raised in a four-finger salute — a commemoration of those 2013 killings of Morsi’s supporters in Cairo, and a sign the Muslim Brotherhood hopes Sisi might be the next Egyptian leader to face charges for killing civilians who threatened his hold on power.


A decade of Global Thinkers

A decade of Global Thinkers

The past year's 100 most influential thinkers and doers Read Now

Trending Now Sponsored Links by Taboola

By Taboola

More from Foreign Policy

By Taboola