The Egyptian court that threw out the murder charges against former President Hosni Mubarak may have closed the final chapter on the Arab Spring. After the country’s brief, flawed attempt at democracy, the army and its supporters put in place an even more authoritarian system than the Mubarak regime.
Now, in a final insult to the hundreds of protesters who were killed in the 2011 uprising, Mr. Mubarak apparently will go free, and there will be no justice for those who died or accountability for the decades of human rights abuses by his government.
While legal experts said the dismissal of charges on Saturday against Mr. Mubarak was based on procedural reasons, his security chief and a half-dozen top police officials were acquitted. The court also acquitted Mr. Mubarak, his two sons and a wealthy business associate of corruption charges. In May, Mr. Mubarak was sentenced to three years in prison on a separate corruption case, but experts said his time since being detained in 2011 is likely to be counted as time served.
The public prosecutor could appeal the murder case to the Court of Cassation, Egypt’s highest criminal court. But, on Sunday, President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the former army general who overthrew the country’s first democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsi, in 2013, seemed to rule that out. Meanwhile, Mr. Morsi and thousands of his Muslim Brotherhood supporters still languish in prison.
Mr. Sisi said Egypt must “look to the future” and “cannot ever go back.” It appears that the Obama administration feels the same way. In a bizarre response, a State Department spokeswoman offered diplomatic pablum when asked to comment on the verdict and referred queries to the Egyptian government.
In what sounds like an effort to tamp down public outrage, Mr. Sisi said there would be a review of government compensation to the families of those killed during the Arab Spring protests. He no doubt hopes Egyptians are so fed up with nearly four years of unrest that they would also be eager to put Mr. Mubarak’s case behind them.
Since Saturday, protests against the ruling have drawn hundreds of participants and involved numerous clashes with security forces. Two demonstrators were killed. While the demonstrations have been smaller than those in 2011, the venues — university campuses across the country — suggest that it may be harder for Mr. Sisi to erase the past than he thinks. Among other challenges, Egypt is struggling with a depressed economy, an insurgency in Sinai, and an Islamic State affiliate that late Sunday took responsibility for killing an American oil worker in Egypt’s Western Desert in August.
Half of Egypt’s population is under the age of 25, and many of those young people were at the heart of the Arab Spring movement and its demands for jobs, education, housing and greater freedoms.
Those aspirations won’t go away. And while Egyptians may want stability, repression and a lack of accountability will produce only more discontent. The Mubarak verdict is another shift away from long delayed hopes for a productive and just society.