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Mubarak sentenced to life

Egypt’s former president Hosni Mubarak and his security chief were given life in prison yesterday over the deaths of protesters in 2011, but the acquittal of six police chiefs sparked calls for mass protest.

‘Void, void’ and ‘The people want the judiciary purged’ could be heard

Judge Ahmed Refaat sentenced the 84-year-old former leader and his interior minister Habib al-Adly to life for their role in the deaths of protesters during the revolt that ousted them, but acquitted the six security commanders on the same charges.

A senior lawyer for Mubarak’s defence team told AFP the strongman, who was taken to a Cairo prison after the hearing, will appeal the sentence.

But once at Tora prison on Cairo’s outskirts, a tearful Mubarak refused to leave the aircraft, and security officials said he “suffered from a surprise health crisis” before they finally convinced him to go in.

The verdict prompted outrage both inside and outside the courtroom.

“Void, void” and “The people want the judiciary purged” could be heard, as furious lawyers told AFP they feared Mubarak would be found innocent on appeal.

The powerful Muslim Brotherhood told AFP it had called for mass protests nationwide, while other groups including the pro-democracy April 6 movement announced they would take to the streets in protest.

Rights groups slammed the verdict as failing to deliver full justice.

Mubarak’s sentence “is a significant step towards combating long-standing impunity in Egypt” but the security chiefs’ acquittal “leaves many still waiting for full justice,” Amnesty International said in a statement.

“Many see the acquittal of all the senior security officials as a sign that those responsible for human rights violations can still escape justice,” it said.

“The verdict fails to deliver justice, it fails to deter police from future abuse and it comes against the backdrop of acquittals in police trials,” Heba Morayef, Cairo-based researcher for Human Rights Watch, told AFP.

Corruption charges against Mubarak’s sons, Alaa and Gamal, were dropped because of the expiry of a statute of limitations, and the former president was acquitted in one of the graft cases.

“We will appeal. The ruling is full of legal flaws from every angle,” Yasser Bahr, a senior member of Mubarak’s defence team, told AFP.

Asked if Mubarak was likely to win the appeal, Bahr said: “We will win, one million percent.”

Mubarak, in sunglasses and wearing a beige track-suit, had his arms folded and showed no emotion inside the caged dock as Chief Judge Ahmed Refaat read the verdict.

Alaa and Gamal, looking tired with dark circles under their eyes, appeared close to tears on hearing the verdict.

“It’s vindicating to Egyptians to see Mubarak and his interior minister sentenced to life, but the verdict raises more questions than answers,” said Hossam Bahgat, the director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, who was outside the court with members of the victims’ families.

“The court appears to have found no evidence that the killings were committed by policemen. It seems the court convicted Mubarak and Adly for failing to prevent the killings,” Bahgat told AFP.

“It’s 100 per cent certain that this will go to appeal and the court is very likely to order a retrial,” said Bahgat, a respected activist and lawyer.

In delivering the ruling, Judge Refaat painted a grim picture of life under Mubarak, listing hardship after hardship suffered during his three-decade rule.

He said some “went hungry” and spoke of conditions in the “rotting slums”.

Refaat said the protesters who joined in the 2011 uprising in Cairo’s Tahrir Square were “peaceful” and wanted only “justice, freedom and democracy”.

Clashes erupted outside the courtroom after the sentencing, with police resorting to stun grenades to control angry crowds.

Mubarak, the only autocrat toppled in the Arab Spring to be tried in person, Adly and the six others had faced charges over their involvement in ordering the deaths of some of the estimated 850 people killed in the uprising.

Egypt has been ruled by the military since Mubarak was forced to resign on February 11 last year after 18 days of protests nationwide.

Mubarak was held at a hospital in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh following his arrest last year, before the military appeared to bow to protester demands that he and former regime officials face trial.

Egypt’s military insists that the prosecution’s investigations and the charges eventually filed were independent judicial decisions.

Critics say the investigation was hasty and sloppy, resulting in a trial based on patchwork evidence that may see Mubarak acquitted.

The ex-president was brought to Cairo for the trial, which began on August 3, and he has been heldthere since.

Mubarak was wheeled into the lecture hall that serves as a courtroom on a stretcher. He reportedly has a heart condition, but the health ministry has denied his lawyer’s assertion that he has cancer.

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