CAIRO – Egypt's highest appeals court on Saturday rejected a motion by former president Hosni Mubarak and his two sons to overturn their conviction on corruption charges.
The ruling by the Court of Cessation, Egypt's final recourse for appeals in criminal cases, dashed any hope that Gamal, Mubarak's younger son and one-time heir apparent, could run for public office. A senior newspaper editor and confidant of Egypt's current president had recently suggested that banker-turned-politician Gamal may have been contemplating the move.
The Mubarak trio was sentenced to three years each for embezzling funds meant for maintenance of presidential palaces but which they spent on upgrading or building private residences. The sons were released in 2015 for time served, while their father was freed last year. They repaid the funds, a total of 125 million pounds (about $7 million).
Mubarak's sons are currently on trial for insider trading. They are free on bail after a judge on Thursday overturned a surprise Sept. 15 ruling to detain them. The case's next hearing is on Oct. 20.
The rejection of their appeal Saturday and Gamal Mubarak's subsequent ineligibility to run for office came in the wake of recent comments by the chief editor of state-run Al-Akhbar publications, Yasser Rizq, who suggested that frequent public appearances by the younger Mubarak could be a prelude to a future presidential run.
Rizq first warned Gamal Mubarak against harboring presidential ambitions in an article published in May. He repeated the warning in a television interview aired earlier this week.
"His real crime is insulting the dignity of the Egyptian people," Rizq said, alluding to Gamal's one-time intention to succeed his father. It violated the constitution and amounted to the toppling of republican rule, he explained. He said it was not improbable that he would strike a political deal with the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood to secure the group's return to politics in exchange for its support in a presidential bid in 2022, when President Abdel-Fattah El-Sissi's second term ends.
Preventing Gamal from succeeding his father was among the main drivers of a 2011 uprising that ended Mubarak's 29-year rule, as well as the military's support for it. The years that followed saw Mubarak regime heavyweights tried on corruption or abuse of power charges. Most have since walked free, while second-string regime loyalists found their way back to public life under el-Sissi.
El-Sissi led the military's 2013 ouster of Egypt's first freely elected president — the Brotherhood's Mohammed Morsi — and has since overseen a massive crackdown on his supporters, jailing thousands of them along with secular activists behind the 2011 uprising.
Egypt's constitution prohibits el-Sissi from running for a third term in office, but his supporters have raised the specter of amending the 2014 charter to allow him to do so or extend the duration of his term. He won a second, four-year term in office this year in an election in which his only opponent was a little-known politician viewed as among his staunchest supporters.
Riza's attack on Gamal Mubarak mirrors past campaigns by the pro-government media against potential challengers to el-Sissi, which have included personal attacks and unsubstantiated accusations. His suggestion that Gamal might strike a deal with the Brotherhood to rise to power carries a thinly-veiled threat given the country's political climate where suspicion of links to the group has provided authorities with grounds to imprison critics, including some with established secular credentials.
Gamal wielded vast influence in Egypt during the final years of Mubarak's rule through his top job at the then-ruling National Democratic Party and the support of Mubarak's inner circle. Had he succeeded his father, he would have been Egypt's first president that didn't hail from the military since a 1952 military coup that toppled the monarchy.