Saturday 21 April 2018

Mubarak cleared of murdering protesters

A supporter of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak outside court
A supporter of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak outside court

Mahmoud Mourad in Cairo

Egypt's top appeals court found Hosni Mubarak innocent of involvement in the killing of protesters during the 2011 uprising that ended his 30-year rule, the final ruling in a landmark case.

The trial of ailing Mr Mubarak, who was toppled in one of the tumultuous uprisings which shook the Arab world, captivated viewers as he appeared in a courtroom cage on charges ranging from corruption to complicity in murder.

Mr Mubarak was originally sentenced to life in prison in 2012 for conspiring to murder 239 demonstrators during the 18-day revolt - an uprising that sowed chaos and created a security vacuum but also inspired hope for democracy and social justice.

But an appeals court ordered a retrial that culminated in 2014 in the case against the ageing former president and his senior officials being dropped. An appeal by the public prosecution led to yesterday's final retrial by the Court of Cassation.

After a hearing that took most of the day, Judge Ahmed Abdel Qawi announced to cheers of approval from Mubarak supporters who filled the court room: "The court has found the defendant innocent."

The court also rejected demands by lawyers of the victims to reopen civil suits. That left no remaining option for appeal or retrial, according to a judicial source.

The families of those killed, who had attended the trial early on, were not present yesterday. Their lawyers condemned the verdict as politically motivated.

"This ruling is not fair and not just. The judiciary is politicised," said Osman al-Hefnawy, a lawyer for the families. Instead, the courtroom was filled with Mubarak supporters who cheered "long live justice" as the verdict was read out and unfurled posters of their former leader.

Many Egyptians who lived through Mr Mubarak's rule view it as a period of autocracy and crony capitalism. His overthrow led to Egypt's first free election, which brought in Islamist president Mohamed Mursi.

Mr Mursi lasted only a year in office, however, after mass protests against his rule in 2013 prompted an overthrow by then army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who later went on to win a presidential election in 2014.

Sitting in a wheelchair in the defendant's cage earlier in the day, without his trademark sunglasses, Mr Mubarak denied involvement in the killing of protesters. "It did not happen," he answered when the judge read out charges of providing vehicles and weapons used to assault protesters and failing to take action to prevent deaths.

After the verdict, Mr Mubarak (88) got into a helicopter to return to a Cairo hospital for ongoing medical treatment.

Irish Independent

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