Hosni Mubarak’s fate hung in the balance when a technicality cleared him on murder charges stemming from Egypt’s 2011 uprising. Mubarak’s referral to trial in May 2011 by the prosecution ignored the clear decision not to file criminal charges against the former president when members of his staff were already sent to trial by the same prosecution two months prior.
Judge Mahmoud Kamel al-Rashidi dismissed the criminal charges on Mubarak. His supporters cheered when the judge stated the charges brought against him were added too late and he should have never been a defendant in the case.
Similar charges were dropped against seven other senior ex-officials. The decision may be appealed but no decision has been made as of yet. Relatives of the victims were outraged and expressed their frustration. As supporters celebrated the victory, Mubarak’s co-defendants and sons all bowed down and kissed his forehead.
Farid al-Deeb, Mubarak’s lawyer said the verdict was indicative of the integrity of the Mubarak era and was a fair verdict. The former president, 86, reiterated he had done nothing wrong at all. He waved to supporters as he was wheeled out of the courtroom on a gurney after the ruling. He is currently serving a three-year sentence for embezzlement of funds. A few more months of his sentence still remains.
In June 2012, Mubarak, his former Interior Minister Habib al-Adly, and six others were convicted of conspiring to kill and were sentenced to life in prison. Due to a technicality, a retrial was ordered last year. During the trial and retrial process, Mubarak spent most of his time in hospitals due to his failing health. He was brought to the courthouse on a gurney and wore dark glasses.
An estimated 800 lives were lost, suspected to have been killed by security forces as they fought protesters weeks before his resignation in Feb. 2011. The uprising ended his nearly three-decade rule in Egypt.
Hosni Mubarak was cleared on murder as well as corruption charges involving gas exports to Israel. His sons, Gamal and Alaa, were cleared by the same court on separate corruption charges today because of a statute of limitations.
Allegedly, they purchased luxury villas from Salem in a Red Sea resort at a heavily discounted price. This was viewed as bribery. The sons also were cleared on charges of insider trading. Judge Mahmoud Kamel al-Rashidi dismissed the charges against the older Mubarak citing his advanced age and his time in service to the community.
At the police academy that once bore his name, the Mubarak faithful and detractors gathered to hear the verdict. Scalpers stood along the sidelines hawking Mubarak memorabilia. Supporters held up posters and portraits of the former president calling for his acquittal. Supportive demonstrators hugged and danced in the streets celebrating.
On the other side of the barricades and police, bereaved relatives held up pictures of the loved ones lost during the uprising. Many had demanded for the execution of the former president. When the charges were dropped, one man collapsed and shouts of despair rang out.
With the verdict as it stands, no one is being held accountable for the loss of life during the 2011 revolution. According to one Egyptian journalist it is as if “the dead committed mass suicide.”
The beginning of the anti-Mubarak protests were marked with ferocious street battles between protesters and both security forces and government supporters. Bricks and stones were thrown from rooftops onto demonstrators in Cairo’s Tahrir Square and vehicles plowed into demonstrators with reckless abandon. Men even rode in on camels and horses beating protesters with whips and batons.
An estimated 170 police officers were put on trial in connection with the deaths during the uprising. Many have either been acquitted due to a lack of evidence or because they acted in self-defense. A few received short or suspended sentences.
It is not clear yet if he will walk free since he is currently serving time for corruption. He has been incarcerated since April 2011 and is unsure if that time will be considered time served. Considering that the judge made mention of his advanced age when clearing Hosni Mubarak of the murder charges, it is likely he will get some type of credit for time served.
By Stevenson Benoit
Photo by Muhammad Ghafari – Flickr License