Court clears way for Mubarak's release

Mubarak being transported from a military helicopter to an ambulance outside the military hospital where he is held, after his court hearing on Thursday. He is the only one from his coterie still detained.
Mubarak being transported from a military helicopter to an ambulance outside the military hospital where he is held, after his court hearing on Thursday. He is the only one from his coterie still detained.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Acquittal upheld for former Egyptian leader accused of killing hundreds in 2011 uprising

CAIRO • Egypt's top appeals court has cleared former president Hosni Mubarak of any responsibility for the killing of hundreds of people during the 2011 protests that ended his 30-year rule, sweeping away the final legal hurdle to his release from detention.

The ruling on Thursday drew cheers from his supporters, who have in recent years cast off the stigma once associated with his name to air increasingly vocal demands for his release.

But it represented a bitter landmark for the millions of Egyptians who risked their lives to oust Mubarak and his circle during the heady, 18-day uprising in early 2011.

None of the Mubarak-era figures who grew rich and influential during his time in power is still in jail.

The sole exception is Mubarak who has been under guard for years at the Maadi Military Hospital in Cairo, in a room overlooking the Nile river.

But the decision to keep him in detention is widely seen in Cairo as a political matter rather than a legal one - constructed to avoid causing any embarrassment to Egypt's current leader, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who sometimes praises the 2011 revolution.

In contrast, thousands of Egyptians who rose against Mubarak in 2011 are stuck in prison, in many cases after mass trials that drew stinging international criticism.

The prisoners include supporters of the banned Muslim Brotherhood but also activists, lawyers and journalists who dared to challenge the current president.

In the past six years, Mubarak has faced a slew of criminal charges for corruption and misrule. But he has been convicted in just one corruption case, which concluded in 2015 when an appeals court upheld a three-year sentence. The judge allowed Mubarak to count time served against the sentence.

Mr Ahdaf Soueif, an author whose nephew - activist and blogger Alaa Abd El Fattah - is in jail, said: "It's pretty telling that Mubarak, who ran the country into the ground, gets acquitted, and people who gave their everything to try and do something for the country are sitting in prison."

According to supporters who have visited him, Mubarak gets regular deliveries of flowers, newspapers and takeout restaurant meals, as well as a constant stream of visitors.

His sons Alaa and Gamal, who were convicted on charges of embezzling millions of dollars of state money, were released from prison in 2015.

In the past six years, Mubarak has faced a slew of criminal charges for corruption and misrule. But he has been convicted in just one corruption case, which concluded in 2015 when an appeals court upheld a three-year sentence. The judge allowed Mubarak to count time served against the sentence.

On Thursday, he was flown by helicopter to the courtroom, where he sat in a wheelchair and smiled at supporters from the defendant's cage.

Mr Yousri Abdelraziq, a lawyer and Mubarak supporter who was present in court, said the former president was in a buoyant mood after his acquittal.

"He fully intends to go home, perhaps in a month or two," he added.

The final case against Mubarak centred on accusations that he ordered shootings by security forces that led to the deaths of 239 people during the 2011 uprising.

In 2012, a court sentenced him to life in prison but an appeals court ordered a retrial, which resulted in his initial acquittal in 2014.

Thursday's ruling confirmed that acquittal.

Mubarak has always insisted he did nothing wrong.

After a list of charges against him was read aloud in court on Thursday - quite possibly for the last time - he responded curtly: "It did not happen."

NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 04, 2017, with the headline 'Court clears way for Mubarak's release'. Print Edition | Subscribe