Death Penalty or Massive Fines in Egypt?

Should Mubarak face the death penalty?

Egypt has been struggling to regain normalcy after the massive revolution throughout January and February overturned the government and brought down the decades-long rule of Hosni Mubarak. Perhaps most notably struck was the tourism sector – which was responsible for roughly 12% of total revenue (or 11.3% of GDP or 5-6% of GDP, depending on who you believe). EgyptAir has seen a 80% drop in revenues, hotel bookings have plummeted by around the same percentage and international tour providers had been forced to cancel tours across the country. Overall, the country’s tourism sector has lost around $2.2 billion since January 25th, when the unrest began.

Meanwhile, as the tourism sector tries to return to normal, the man responsible is being charged with a laundry list of crimes that could potentially result in the death sentence. Hosni Mubarak, along with two of his sons – Ala’a and Gamal – as well as his close associate – Hussien Salam – are being charged with intentionally targeting and killing protesters during the revolution. Charges include “intentional murder, attempted killing of some demonstrators … misuse of influence and deliberately wasting public funds and unlawfully making private financial gains and profits.” Mubarak, who had been hospitalized in Sharm el-Sheikh has been transferred to a military prison while Salam, who had been criticized for provided gas to Israel at below-market prices, has fled the country.

Egyptian state prosecutors have decided to tackle the most important human rights charges first, however, fining Mubarak and two other former officials a total of over $90 million for cutting the internet for five days at the end of January. Mubarak was fined $34 million, former interior minister Habib al-Adly $53m, and former prime minister Ahmed Nazif $7m. Interestingly, the state has the right to increase each fine, which must be paid from the vast private accounts of the officials, if the financial damages of the shut down continue to rise throughout the year.

With personal funds allegedly reaching nearly $70 billion, it seems as though Mubarak will be able to handle the fine even though his Swiss bank accounts have been frozen and  the state has been able to seize many of the Mubarak family assets. Is it strange to think that the billions lost from the disruption of the tourism sector (as well as other vital parts of the Egyptian economy) could be easily recovered by fining the Mubarak family for his other crimes as well? Forget the death sentence – rather, fine the family $10 billion or so for shooting at and killing innocent protesters. I mean the man fights daily rumors about his death anyway. Might as well take all of his personal wealth that was essentially stolen through mass corruption and let him sit alone in a prison cell for the last month or so of his life.

(Of course,  then there would be all types of distribution problems that would most likely lead to another round of mass corruption, protests, revolution, government overthrow, etc [see: Libya]. But imagine how nice it would be to have an influx of several billion dollars to create and vastly expand the nonexistent social support programs to the 40 million Egyptians who live under $2 a day.)

Photo by Chris Keeler, 2010

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