Ousted Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was sentenced to life in prison on charges of complicity in the deaths of some of the nearly 850 protesters who lost their lives in the uprising that swept him from power last year.
The court in Cairo also sentenced Mubarak’s long-time interior minister, Habib el-Adly, to life in prison on the same charge. Mubarak’s two sons, businessman Alaa and one-time heir-apparent Gamal, were acquitted of corruption charges. All the men pleaded innocent to the charges. The sentences can be appealed.
Mubarak, 84, had faced a death sentence, and the verdict enraged lawyers in the court as it was read out today. A fist-fight broke out as chants of “null and void” and “the people want the cleansing of the judiciary” rang out in the police academy on the outskirts of the Egyptian capital where the trial was being held. Outside, Mubarak supporters clashed with police and smashed television cameras, while families of those killed in the uprising wept.
Presiding Judge Ahmed Refaat began the proceedings by speaking of the new era that emerged in Egypt after Mubarak was toppled from power. Under Mubarak, Egypt fell behind “the most backward countries in the Third World,” the judge said. “God wiped out the night, and allowed daylight to prevail.”
Last year’s uprising ended “30 years of bleak, bleak darkness,” Refaat said. “God’s will was to inspire the courageous people of Egypt, accompanied by angels. They were not demanding the luxuries of life, but demanding that their politicians and rulers, who enjoyed the riches and power, to give them the bare minimum” of food, water, housing and jobs.
Mubarak is the only Arab leader to end up in a dock after the mass uprisings that swept through the region. The court’s decision, in the culmination of proceedings billed by Egyptian media as “the trial of the century,” risks exacerbating the country’s polarization over June 16 runoff elections, in which Egyptians will chose between Ahmed Shafik, Mubarak’s last premier, and the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Mursi.
The sentence may fail to appease many of the protesters who had demanded the death penalty. Opponents of the ruling generals have said the trial has dragged on, reflecting what they saw as more an attempt to placate Egyptians that mete out justice.
“Mubarak had all the comforts he needed in hospital and we’re even worse off than when he was in power,” Hossam Abdulla, 31, who said he had been detained and beaten by security forces under Mubarak, said in an interview. Mubarak has been held in hospital since his ouster.
“I won’t be satisfied until I see him hanging from a lamppost in Tahrir,” he said, referring to the Cairo square that served as the revolution’s epicentre. “But that won’t happen. There’s never any justice in this country.”
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