Former Egyptian president gets life imprisonment
Thousands of Egyptians, who poured onto the streets after the verdict, want him executed
CAIRO (Reuters) – Hosni Mubarak, toppled by an uprising last year after 30 years ruling Egypt, was sentenced to life imprisonment yesterday for his role in killing protesters after a trial that sets a precedent for holding Middle East autocrats to account.
But it was not enough for thousands of Egyptians who poured onto the streets after the verdict. Some wanted Mubarak executed, others feared the judge’s ruling exposed weaknesses in the case that could let the former military strongman off on appeal.
Protesters gathered in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, focus for the uprising that drove Mubarak, now 84, from office on February 11, 2011. Others in the second city of Alexandria chanted: “We are done with talk, we want an execution!”
Mubarak was wheeled into a courtroom cage on a hospital stretcher to join co-defendants including his two sons Alaa and Gamal, former Interior Minister Habib al-Adli and six security officials.
“The court has ordered a punishment for Hosni Mubarak of life in prison based on charges of participating in crimes of killing and attempted killing,” Judge Ahmed Refaat told the hushed courtroom.
Propped up on the hospital stretcher and wearing sunglasses, Mubarak heard the verdict stony-faced. He was acquitted on a separate corruption charge.
Refaat sentenced Adli to life in prison but acquitted the senior security officials for lack of evidence.
He quashed charges against Mubarak’s sons, relating to abuse of power and graft, but a new case brought against them this week for stock market fraud will keep them behind bars for now.
Businessman and Mubarak ally Hussein Salem, being tried in absentia, was acquitted of corruption charges.
After a silence during sentencing, scuffles broke out inside the court between security officers and people chanting “Void, void” and “The people want the cleansing of the judiciary”.
Islamists and others called for protests yesterday. But some Egyptians said Mubarak’s sentencing was enough, even if they were unhappy that security officials were off the hook.
The Muslim Brotherhood demanded a re-trial for Mubarak, who made Egypt into a staunch Arab ally of the United States.
About 850 people were killed in the 18-day revolt that toppled Mubarak.
State television said Mubarak, suffered a “health crisis” when he was taken by helicopter from the court to Cairo’s Tora prison, where he was admitted to a hospital facility. Mubarak had been held at a luxurious military-run hospital during the 10-month trial.
One medical source said Mubarak had argued with those around him when he had landed at Tora, refusing to leave the aircraft.
Mubarak routinely appeared in court on a stretcher, but it is not clear what ailed him. He had occupied a large hospital suite and was free to see relatives, walk in the garden and exercise, news reports and a hospital source said this week.
Al Jazeera reported that Mubarak would lodge an appeal. His lawyers could not be reached immediately for comment on the report.
Despite Mubarak’s life sentence, lawyers acting for the families of victims in the uprising said the acquittal of the six security officials showed the weakness of the prosecution case and suggested the jailed president could win an appeal.
New York-based Human Rights Watch said the ruling “sends a powerful message to Egypt’s future leaders that they are not above the law”.
The lawyers for the victims’ families said the verdicts against Mubarak and Adli were designed to appease public anger while leaving room for them to be overturned on appeal.