The popular uprisings across the Arab world that began more than two and a half years ago transformed the politics of the region and ousted four entrenched leaders. But news that an Egyptian court has ordered the release from prison of former President Hosni Mubarak underscores the extent to which the glow of 2011’s upheavals has faded. Other Arab autocrats toppled by the Arab Spring have not been as lucky. Here’s a look at where they and their families are:
Hosni Mubarak, Egypt
An Egyptian court ordered Wednesday the release of Mubarak, who was imprisoned months after his ouster in January 2011. Mubarak was tried on live television and sentenced to life imprisonment, but the ailing 85-year-old appealed and was granted a retrial earlier this year. According to his lawyer, he may be released as soon as Thursday, though he won’t be resuming in politics.
Both of Mubarak’s sons, Gamal and Alaa, are still imprisoned on corruption and insider-trading charges, though they have not been convicted, and all three family members are held in Tora prison, 14 miles south of Cairo. Former first lady Suzanne Mubarak, who has visited her incarcerated husband along with her two daughters-in-law, does not face charges, though the government said it would confiscate $4.4 million from her funds that were believed to have been accumulated illegally.
News of Mubarak’s release deepens the sense of crisis in the country — which, in the space of a month and a half, has seen the military’s ousting of a democratically elected President and a bloody crackdown on Islamist protesters. See the BBC for a roundup of the cases against former Mubarak-era officials.
Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, Tunisia
Ben Ali was Tunisia’s President from 1987 until the revolt that ousted him in January 2011 and spearheaded the Arab Spring. He fled to Saudi Arabia with his wife and has remained there, with nary a peep, ever since. Tunisian courts sentenced Ben Ali, 76, in absentia to life in prison, but Saudi Arabia has ignored requests to extradite the former leader. Other members of the first couple’s sprawling family have been arrested or charged in absentia, including Ben Ali’s brother-in-law, who died in prison. The new government, meanwhile, sold off Ben Ali’s assets, including luxury cars and gold jewelry, last December.
Ali Abdullah Saleh, Yemen
Yemen’s President for 33 years stepped down in February 2012 under a regionally brokered deal that granted him immunity from prosecution. The former President was injured months earlier in a bomb attack on his presidential compound, but he has since lived in relative peace despite continued resentment over his rule.
In fact, Saleh opened a museum in February dedicated to the memory of — himself. Located in the capital city’s Saleh Mosque that was built under his rule, the museum exhibits gifts given to the former President, some of his clothes and even fragments of shrapnel removed from his body after the attack on his compound.
Muammar Gaddafi, Libya
Colonel Gaddafi, who ruled Libya for 42 years, was killed and likely tortured beforehand by rebel fighters in October 2011, eight months after government clashes with protesters escalated into a nationwide civil war. Much of Gaddafi’s family fled to neighboring Algeria or elsewhere, though son and likely heir Saif al-Islam Gaddafi remains in Libyan custody and is the subject of a tug-of-war between the International Criminal Court in the Hague and local authorities. Another son, Saif al-Arab Gaddafi, was killed by a NATO air strike during the 2011 military intervention.