Was the military funeral for Mubarak legal?

Egypt honored former President Mubarak with a military funeral, sparking controversy about the legality of such a funeral given that Mubarak was stripped of all military honors after his conviction.

al-monitor The coffin of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is carried on a horse-drawn hearse during his funeral, east of Cairo, Egypt, Feb. 26, 2020.  Photo by REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh.

Mar 10, 2020

CAIRO — Controversy prevailed in Egypt following the official military funeral Feb. 26 for former President Hosni Mubarak, who ruled the country with an iron fist for nearly three decades.

He was ousted by the January 25 Revolution, when millions of Egyptians swarmed the streets to take down his regime. Yet, at his funeral, he was portrayed as a hero worthy of honor, as artillery fired 21 rounds to salute the deceased autocrat. A horse-drawn carriage transported his coffin, which was draped in the Egyptian flag. Amid a backdrop of military music, soldiers carried floral wreaths and the military decorations obtained by Mubarak throughout his military service.

Lawyer Gamal Eid, the executive director of the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, told Al-Monitor that Mubarak was not entitled to a military funeral since he was convicted of a charge offending honor.

An Egyptian court ruled in January 2016 that Mubarak and his two sons, Alaa and Gamal, were guilty of corruption and sentenced them to three years in prison with fines of 125 million Egyptian pounds ($16.4 million).

The Egyptian media dubbed it the case of the “presidential palaces.” Mubarak and his sons were charged with misusing public funds between 2002 and 2011, allegedly for renovating presidential palaces.

“The crimes Mubarak committed are related to civil activity and not military activity," Eid said. "He is therefore subject to the penal code, which provides for depriving the rank or status of anyone who has been sentenced to a criminal penalty. How can a military funeral be held with a display of medals and decorations for a man convicted by virtue of a conclusive ruling of seizing state property in the presidential palaces case?”

Eid wondered how a man whose policies sanctioned the killing and torture of hundreds, even thousands, in prisons, could be honored with a military funeral.

Mahmoud Kabish, the former dean of the Faculty of Law at Cairo University, told Anadolu Agency in January 2016 that with the court's final ruling, Mubarak would also be deprived of the rank and decorations he obtained in the armed forces or as president, in accordance with Article 25 of the Egyptian penal code.

Under Article 25 of the penal code, any person who is convicted of a criminal offense is not allowed to work for the government. 

Mubarak's attorney, Farid al-Deeb, told al-Shorouk newspaper Feb. 25 that a military funeral for Mubarak was consistent with the provisions of Law No. 35 of 1979, which states that those who occupied top positions in the 1973 War remain in military service for life

Eid said this law does not apply to Mubarak, as he left the armed forces and assumed public office.

In an attempt to calm public opinion, the armed forces issued a statement Feb. 25 mourning Mubarak as a leader of the 1973 War. The goal was to affirm Mubarak's affiliation with the armed forces, not the civilian authority.

Egypt’s official Channel 1 and a number of local state media outlets ran reports around the clock justifying Mubarak's military funeral on the pretext of his service in the 1973 War. Egyptian local media addressed pressure on Egypt to hold a military funeral for Mubarak, especially since Abdel Fattah al-Sisi had criticized Mubarak's policies on several occasions.

During a meeting with Egyptian authors in December 2014, Sisi lashed out at Mubarak for creating crises in all Egyptian sectors. “Mubarak ruined Egypt over 30 years, and the result is that we need another 30 years to fix what Mubarak has ruined,” he said.

The New Arab news website quoted sources as saying that a phone call from the UAE pushed President Sisi to organize a military funeral. The UAE has close ties to Mubarak. The UAE had decided Feb. 25 to fly its flags at half-mast for one day in all ministries, government institutions and diplomatic missions abroad, to mourn Mubarak’s death.

Meanwhile, activists launched an Arabic hashtag on Twitter, which translates as “Mubarak died and we will not forget,” to recall the events of the January 25 Revolution, which Mubarak tried to suppress by all possible means. During the 2011 uprising, security services used live bullets and tear gas and cut telecommunications. Hundreds of protesters and activists were killed, and the regime's media launched sharp attacks on the January 25 Revolution.

However, the 2014 Egyptian Constitution honored this same revolution and “the martyrs and wounded of the nation.” Activists on social media decried the official funeral of Mubarak as “the end of the January 25 Revolution.”

Ahmad Moussa, the host of the Egyptian TV show “My Responsibility” on the satellite channel Sada El Balad, said Mubarak’s military funeral annihilated the January 25 Revolution. He stated that Mubarak's military funeral means that “there is no such thing as the January 25 Revolution.”

Legislator Haitham al-Hariri, a member of the 25-30 bloc, told Al-Monitor, “Mubarak committed crimes against the people who revolted against him in the January 25 Revolution. He does not deserve this honor [of a military funeral].”

He continued, “The January 25 Revolution erupted to put an end to corruption, but it failed to do so. It is not the supporters of this revolution who are ruling Egypt. The country is ruled by people who did not take part in this revolution.”

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