CAIRO, Egypt (AP) — Hosni Mubarak was sentenced to life in prison yesterday for failing to stop the killing of protesters during the uprising that ousted him, offering his opponents a measure of justice. But he and his two sons were acquitted of corruption in a verdict that did not satisfy public demands for accountability after what the chief judge called 30 years of “darkness” under the old regime.
The mixed ruling set off street protests and by nightfall a large crowd of up to 10,000 was back in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, the birthplace of the uprising, to vent anger over the acquittals. Similar protesters were held in other cities, including the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria and Suez on the Red Sea.
“Justice was not served,” said Ramadan Ahmed, whose son was killed on January 28, the bloodiest day of last year’s uprising. “This is a sham,” he said outside the courthouse.
Protesters chanted: “A farce, a farce, this trial is a farce” and “The people want execution of the murderer.”
Mubarak, 84, and his ex-security chief Habib el-Adly were both convicted of complicity in the killings of some 900 protesters and received life sentences. Six top police commanders were acquitted of the same charge with chief Judge Ahmed Rifaat saying there was a lack of concrete evidence.
That absolved the only other representatives of Mubarak’s hated security forces aside from el-Adly. It was a stark reminder that though the head has been removed, the body of the reviled security apparatus is largely untouched by genuine reform or purges since Mubarak was ousted 15 months ago.
Many of the senior security officials in charge during the uprising and the Mubarak regime continue to go to work every day at their old jobs.
In many ways, the old system remains in place and the clearest example of that is a key regime figure — Mubarak’s longtime friend and last prime minister, Ahmed Shafiq — is one of two candidates going to the presidential runoff set for June 16-17.
The generals who took over from Mubarak have not shown a will for vigorously prosecuting the old regime. That is something that neither Shafiq nor Morsi may have the political will or the muscle to change when one is elected president.
Shafiq last week declared himself an admirer of the uprising, calling it a “religious revolution” and pledged there would be no turning of the clock while he is at the helm. Yesterday, he said the verdict showed that no one was above the law in today’s Egypt.
Shafiq’s challenger Mohammed Morsi of the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood quickly tried to capitalise on the anger over the acquittals, vowing in a news conference that, if elected, he would retry Mubarak along with former regime officials suspected of involvement in killing protesters.
“Egypt and its revolutionary sons will continue their revolution. This revolution will not stop,” he said.
The case against Mubarak, his sons, ex-security chief and six of his top aides was very limited in scope, focusing only on the uprising’s first few days and two narrow corruption cases. It was never going to provide a full accountability of wrongdoing under Mubarak’s three decades of authoritarian rule enforced by a brutal police force and a coterie of businessmen linked to the regime who amassed wealth while nearly half of Egypt’s estimated 85 million lived in poverty.
Mubarak and his two sons were acquitted of corruption charges, along with family friend Hussein Salem, who is on the run. The corruption charges were related to the purchase by the Mubaraks of five villas built by Salem at a fraction of their price and Mubarak’s decree to allow a Salem company to export natural gas to Israel. Rifaat cited a 10-year statute of limitations that had lapsed on the case of the villas.
The sons — one-time heir apparent Gamal and wealthy businessman Alaa — will not be freed because they are awaiting trial on charges of insider trading. They have been held in custody in Torah prison, the same jail where Mubarak was flown after the sentencing.