By Diaa Bekheet
Ousted Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak has received a sentence of life in prison for complicity in the killing of hundreds of anti-government protesters during last year’s 18-day uprising that forced him to resign on February 11. He was acquitted of corruption charges.
Mubarak’s former interior minister Habib al-Adly received similar life sentence. Adly’s six deputies were acquitted.
The verdict was given in a makeshift court, a lecture hall once named after Mubarak in the police academy in Cairo, amid unprecedented security. Crowds outside the court shouted as they watched the event live on a giant screen.
Mubarak was grim-faced and silent as Presiding Judge Ahmed Refaat handed down the life sentence. Lawyers for the 84-year-old former leader plan to appeal.
Mubarak’s two sons, Alaa and Gamal, were acquitted of corruption charges.
VOA correspondent Elizabeth Arrott reports on Twitter that scuffles broke out in the Cairo courtroom after the verdicts for Mubarak’s sons were announced.
Mubarak’s family friend, business tycoon Hussein Salem, now a fugitive in Spain, has been acquitted of corruption.
The former president’s trial began in August last year. His court appearances were striking, as he was photographed lying down on a stretcher inside a defendant’s cage with iron bars.
His conviction sends a powerful message to other political and military leaders in Egypt. It is seen as a big lesson to the country’s next president to ensure that he can no longer act with impunity.
Millions of people in Egypt and other countries watched the verdict on live television, including this Washington-based editor.
The vderdict, rejected as insufficient by many Egyptians, will add to the very tense mood in Egypt. It has triggered protests outside the court and prompted calls for nationwide protests and a new uprising.
The most populous Arab state is bitterly divided over Mubarak. Many believe that Egypt enjoyed peace under his 30-year rule. Others believe that under him, Egypt lost its status in the Middle East, and plunged into poverty and runaway corruption.
The verdict comes at a politically sensitive time, and is not expected to bring a definitive end to Mubarak’s era.
Many Egyptians are deeply disappointed by the choice they now face as Egypt gears up for a presidential runoff slated for June 16-17. It is between Islamist candidate Mohamed Morsi and Mubarak’s close ally and last prime minister Ahmed Shafiq.