Calm Down, Everyone: Mubarak's Not Free Yet (and May Never Be)

CAIRO -- Is Hosni Mubarak about to be a free man? An Egyptian court ruled on Monday that the former president was not guilty in a case that accused him of misusing state funds to finance the construction of his presidential palaces. Mubarak's main attorney, Fareed el-Deeb, followed up the verdict by telling reporters that the deposed ruler "will be released [from prison] in 48 hours."

Mubarak's release would constitute the victory of a lifetime for Deeb, who has defended him to the hilt since his ouster. But the former president's release may not be as imminent as Deeb suggested, as state media reported that Mubarak would remain detained for at least another two weeks as judicial authorities determined his fate. What's more, while the colorful lawyer has proved adept at making headlines over the past two years, his proclamations have a habit of not surviving a news cycle. 

From the beginning, Deeb seemed to realize that Mubarak would be tried in the court of public opinion, in addition to one governed by the rule of law. He tried to scrub away the portrait of his client as an out-of-touch despot, painting him instead as a sick old man: Mubarak, he said in May 2011, was "in very bad health" -- he suffered from a heart problem, and his colon cancer had returned. In June 2011, he added that Mubarak suffered from stomach cancer as well, and that in June 2010 he underwent "critical surgery" in Germany that removed parts of his pancreas, gall bladder, and a growth on his small intestines.

In July 2011, Deeb reported Mubarak's health had taken a turn for the worse. He said that the former president had suffered a stroke and slipped into a coma -- roughly two weeks before he was to stand trial for the first time on charges of killing protesters. Mubarak's doctor, however, quickly denied that his patient had suffered from a stroke or was in a coma. "I checked on him. He is in stable condition," the doctor said. "What happened is he got a little dizzy because his blood pressure was low."

In June 2012, soon after a Cairo court found Mubarak guilty of failing to stop security forces from killing protesters during the 2011 uprising, the former president seemed to be on death's door. Egypt's state-run news agency, citing medical sources, declared that Mubarak was "clinically dead." Deeb denied that the former president had passed away -- but said that he was in a coma, had a water buildup around his lungs, and suffered from a clot in his brain, adding that "electric shocks were used to revive him but there was no substantial response."

Despite this staggering number of ailments, however, Mubarak never died -- and, by the end of 2012, seemed to be making a miraculous recovery. Deeb told the Egyptian daily al-Shorouk in December that the former president's health "has improved" over previous days. By April 2013, AFP reported that Mubarak appeared "strong and defiant" during a court appearance, waving and smiling at his supporters.

None of that is to say that Deeb's claim that Mubarak will be released is necessarily wrong. After two years of legal chaos, the guilty verdict against the former president has been overturned and the legal period for which he can be held pending trial has expired. An Egyptian court must decide now whether he will remain detained while a separate case proceeds against him. But whether or not he's freed, it would be wise to treat Deeb's prognostications with a grain of salt.


Egypt to Media: Don't You Dare Distort Our War on Terror

CAIRO -- As the confrontation between Egypt's government and supporters of deposed President Mohamed Morsy heats up, Cairo's new rulers have a new target for criticism -- the foreign press corps.

Egypt's State Information Service (SIS) released a statement Saturday criticizing some foreign correspondents for "steer[ing] away from objectivity and neutrality," which resulted in them communicating "a distorted image" of events in Egypt to their audiences. "Egypt is feeling severe bitterness towards some Western media coverage that is biased to the Muslim Brotherhood and ignores shedding light on violent and terror acts that are perpetrated by this group," the statement read.

The SIS laid out seven ways in which international coverage of Egypt was lacking. In addition to ignoring the Brotherhood's "thuggery and sabotage," the statement said, some media "are still falling short of describing the [anti-Morsy protests] of June 30 as an expression of a popular will." The Egyptian government, in other words, objects to international coverage describing Morsy's ouster as a military coup.

The statement also accused foreign press of ignoring the support that the Muslim Brotherhood is allegedly drawing from foreigners and jihadists. It accused the media of "completely ignor[ing]" that the Brotherhood had sought support from al Qaeda elements, alleging that five vehicles flying the Islamist "black flag" and armed with automatic weapons had driven into Cairo's Ramses Square during pro-Morsy protests there on Friday. "[The foreign press] also ignored making reference to the participation of non-Egyptian elements from Pakistan, Syria and Palestine in violent acts committed by the Brotherhood," the statement read.

Egyptian officials have also echoed the statement's criticisms in their public remarks. In a press conference yesterday, Egyptian presidency spokesman Mustafa Hegazy opened with remarks in English -- a sign that his message was geared to foreign media. He said that Egyptians were "bitter" that the foreign press had ignored stories of Brotherhood supporters killing soldiers, burning churches, and using women and children as human shields. The events in Egypt were not a political disagreement between two sides, he said, but a "war with terrorism ... and Egypt will defend its sovereignty."

Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy held a press conference on Sunday morning, before which journalists were handed a packet titled "Egypt Fighting Terrorism: 14th - 16th August." The foreign minister criticized some in the international community for calling exclusively for the Egyptian government to show restraint, while "ignoring all the violence and attacks on government buildings." 

The official criticism of the foreign press corps has coincided with an increase in attacks on journalists as they cover events in Cairo. The Guardian's Patrick Kingsley, the Washington Post's Abigail Hauslohner, the Independent's Alastair Beach, the Wall Street Journal's Matt Bradley, and McClatchy's Nancy Youssef were all threatened by Egyptian security forces or civilians in the past several days. Brazilian journalist Hugo Bachega was also detained while covering the protests on Friday, as was Canadian filmmaker John Greyson and physician Tarek Loubani, whose current location remains unknown

Read the SIS statement for yourself, here:

Egypt's State Information Service Statement to Foreign Correspondents