One day after Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak resigned on February 11, I asked in an article for The Huffington Post, “Will Mubarak Be Prosecuted?” Three months, 12 days, and many mixed signals later, we finally have an answer. Yes, he will.
Egypt’s state prosecutor today charged Mubarak, along with sons Gamal and Alaa, with murder in connection with the 18-day protests in February that toppled his regime and abuse of power. If convicted, Mubarak and his sons could face the death penalty.
As with most of the military council’s actions in the Mubarak case, the latest move comes in the face of unrelenting public pressure. Protesters have called for another round of mass demonstration later this week in Tahrir Square, epicenter of the original uprising, to push for a speedy prosecution as well as an end to the hated emergency laws the governing military has so far kept in place.
How the prosecution pans out remains to be seen. The military has been a begrudging enforcer of the demonstrators’ demands, having dragged its feet for months before arresting Mubarak several weeks ago. The latest move testifies to the remarkable durability of the protest movement, which has proven no more cowed by the army’s often heavy-handed efforts to wind down the demonstrations than by Mubarak’s camel-riding thugs.
More unclear still, and surely more important, is where this revolutionary core will train its sights next. Accountability for the top dogs in the ancien regime is no doubt a significant step in the nation’s democratic development, but its ultimate success will depend on the new leadership’s willingness and capacity to tackle new challenges. Crime is on the rise, long-suppressed sectarian hostilities are spilling over into violence and the economy is in the tank.
As I wrote before, the trajectory of the great Egyptian experiment in democracy will define the legacy of the Arab Spring more than anything else–the war in Libya included. Egypt has made history by toppling and holding to account one of the region’s most powerful strongmen. Now, it must make history again by forging the peaceful, democratic and prosperous model for the Arab world that Iraq never became.