Published Saturday, November 29, 2014
Updated at 1:25 pm (GMT+2): An Egyptian court dismissed Saturday a murder charge against ousted president Hosni Mubarak over the deaths of protesters during a 2011 uprising that ended the former strongman’s decades-long rule.
The court also acquitted Mubarak and a former oil minister of corruption charges related to gas exports to Israel, but the former dictator will remain in prison because he is serving a three-year sentence in a separate corruption case.
Judge Mahmoud Kamel al-Rashidi said that seven of Mubarak’s commanders including the feared former interior minister Habib al-Adly, were found “innocent” of the demonstrator deaths in 2011
About 800 people were killed during the 18-day uprising that unseated Mubarak, in which protesters clashed with police across the country and torched police stations. Mubarak was accused of having ordered the killing of protesters.
Cheers broke out in the courtroom and Mubarak’s two sons and co-defendants, Alaa and Gamal, stooped down to kiss his forehead when the judge read out the verdict, as the 86-year-old Mubarak lay in an upright stretcher inside the caged dock.
The usually stone-faced Mubarak, wearing his trademark shades, allowed himself a faint smile.
Corruption charges were also dropped against Alaa and Gamal Mubarak, with Rashidi saying too much time had elapsed since the alleged crime took place for the court to rule on the matter.
Saturday’s rulings can be appealed.
The ruling came after a dramatic retrial in which the former president defended his 30-year rule.
An appeals court overturned an initial life sentence for Mubarak in 2012 on a technicality.
His lawyer Farid al-Deeb told AFP that Saturday’s verdict was “a good ruling that proved the integrity of Mubarak’s era.”
Mubarak told the retrial in August that he was nearing the end of his life “with a good conscience”.
“The Hosni Mubarak before you would never have ordered the killings of protesters,” he said.
“The blood of my son has been wasted”
Outside the court venue, a sprawling police academy on Cairo’s outskirts, relatives of those killed in the 18-day uprising were appalled at the ruling.
“It’s an oppressive ruling. The blood of my son has been wasted,” said Mustafa Morsi, whose son was killed outside a police station during the uprising.
Protesters at the time vented years of pent-up fury over police abuses and corruption by attacking and torching stations across the country, leaving the interior ministry on the brink of collapse.
Other opponents of the former strongman outside the court would only comment in dismay: “God is sufficient for us, and he is the best custodian.”
Mubarak’s former interior minister Adly accused the Muslim Brotherhood and Palestinian militants of attacking protesters during the 2011 uprising to malign the police.
During the retrial which opened in May 2013, most witnesses – senior military and police officers under Mubarak – have given testimony seen as favorable to the former leader.
Ahead of the ruling, security was beefed up around the court at the sprawling police academy on the outskirts of Cairo, with 5,000 police deployed, the official MENA news agency reported, citing a senior official.
Mubarak’s successor, Muslim Brotherhood member Mohammed Mursi, was himself deposed last year by then-army chief Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, who is now president, and put on trial along with hundreds of other Islamists.
Mursi and several top leaders of his Muslim Brotherhood movement are accused of committing acts of violence during the anti-Mubarak uprising as well as during huge anti-Mursi protests which prompted the army to remove him.
Several top left-leaning youth activists who led the campaign against Mubarak have also been jailed by the authorities for staging unauthorized protests after the June 2013 overthrow of the divisive Mursi.
Sisi, who won a presidential election in May after crushing his Islamist opponents, has made law and order and economic stability his top priorities rather than democratic freedoms – the key demand during the anti-Mubarak uprising.
The police force, which Mubarak is accused of ordering to quell the 2011 uprising, is now feted in the largely pro-government media as it wages a deadly crackdown on pro-Mursi Islamist protesters and militants.
At least 1,400 people have been killed in the crackdown, with scores of soldiers and policemen dying in militant attacks.
Once-banished Mubarak-era officials have made a comeback, using a widespread backlash against former opposition figures blamed for the tumult since the strongman’s overthrow.
Current Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab was a senior official in Mubarak’s now dissolved party, something that would have been unthinkable in the months following the strongman’s ouster.
(AFP, Al-Akhbar, Reuters)