A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Friday, April 15, 2011

. . . And All the King's Men

Although the interrogation of the Mubarak family has gotten all the attention outside Egypt, the net is gradually widening as more and more senior officials of the former Cabinet and former Ruling Party are being investigated for corruption and other related charges such as misappropriation of public funds. Most are held at Tora (Tura) prison, notorious for holding political prisoners under the old regime. Jokes are spreading about whole cabinet meetings of ex-officials now being possible at Tora.

Latest is word that the former Minister of Petroleum, Samih Fahmi, is being investigated.

Besides Mubarak, his wife (who has been questioned but not detained) and two sons (both of whom are detained), the roundup so far includes:

The former Interior Minister, Habib al-‘Adly, was one of the first to be arrested back in February. Industrialist Ahmad ‘Ezz, a key figure in the ruling party and ally of Gamal Mubarak's. Safwat Sharif, head of the Shura Council (Upper House) and key figure in the ruling party for decades, is also jailed; so is the former Presidential Chief of Staff, Zakaria ‘Azmi. The former Prime Minister, Ahmad Nazif, was detained just before the Mubaraks.

The former Ministers of Tourism,  Housing, and Industry and Trade are also either jailed or outside the country, and the former Finance Minister under investigation.

At this point it is hard to know how the fall of the old elite will finally conclude. The decision to go after the Mubaraks has cheered many of the young revolutionaries but worries others who might have preferred a Reconciliation model (a la South Africa) instead of vengeance against a man about to turn 83.

There is an unspoken limitation to the investigations so far. They have penetrated into the senior Cabinet, the Mubarak family itself, and even the powerful internal security establishment. But, despite the nominal independence of the Prosecutor General's office, they have not touched the Armed Forces, which, however, has extensive economic investments and influence as well.  As long as the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces has anything to say about it, the Armed Forces remain off limits.

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