CAIRO — Hosni Mubarak, the former president of Egypt whose deposition in 2011 led to the country’s first democratic elections, was released from prison on Wednesday after completing his obligatory 60 hours of community service. The period of community service, which was administered to help remind the brutally repressive autocrat the many joys of civic duty and responsible citizenship, “worked like a charm,” according to Farid Al-Deeb, Mubarak’s lawyer.
“Thanks to the court system that he himself established, appointed, and maintained, the stain of Mubarak’s 30 years of despotic rule has been cleansed in its entirety by the two and half days he spent serving the community,” stated Deeb, “and I am confident that he is ready to make a healthy, happy return to the tattered and blood-drenched remains of our society.”
For the past month, Mubarak was a common sight along the Cairo highway, often cheerily spearing litter in his neon orange “I’m A Community Helper” vest while military police savagely beat Islamist supporters of ex-president Morsi in the background. He even volunteered to act as a crossing guard for one of Cairo’s less-privileged neighborhoods, guiding local schoolchildren and wheelchair-bound grandmothers across a dangerous intersection and into the safety of a nearby riot.
The military coup that overthrew Mohamed Morsi and the interim government’s planned referendum on a new constitution appear popular even among those revolutionaries who once called for Hosni Mubarak to be executed. Despite hundreds being killed in clashes between the Muslim Brotherhood and the police, few Egyptians seem eager to point out the connection between these incidents and Mubarak’s treatment of the Islamist political opposition under the old regime.
“He’s a really great guy now, just a regular guy,” said the director of an Egyptian state-run orphanage. “He came in here with ice cream for all the kids. ‘I’m sorry your parents died,’ he said, holding an ice cream cone out for little Omar to lick. ‘But you killed them,’ said Omar. Then a terribly sad look came over Mubarak. ‘Shh,’ he said, shoving the ice cream cone into Omar’s mouth, and then, when it wouldn’t go in any more, just smearing it all over his face. ‘Shh.’ It was a beautiful, tender moment.”
But Mubarak’s sterling do-gooder reputation has not afforded him total amnesty. Pending his retrial for the murder of protesters during the 2011 uprising that removed him from power, he has been placed under house arrest. Although the charge carries with it the possibility of a life sentence, most believe that Mubarak will ultimately be acquitted.
“There’s no need to confine a man to prison when the message is already clear,” said interim Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi. “If you visit senseless mass murder upon the people of Egypt, you’d better be prepared to pay it back with at LEAST two shifts at the soup kitchen.”