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Middle East
New Turmoil in Egypt Greets Mixed Verdict for Mubarak
By DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK
Published: June 2, 2012
CAIRO — An Egyptian court on Saturday sentenced former President Hosni Mubarak to life in prison as an accomplice in the killing of unarmed demonstrators during the protests that ended his nearly 30-year rule.
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Hosni Mubarak heard the verdict while seated in a cage in the courtroom with the other defendants. More Photos »
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The two sons of former President Mubarak, Gamal, left, and Alaa Mubarak, right, arrived at the courthouse in Cairo on Saturday. More Photos »
But a conviction that once promised to deliver a triumph for the rule of law in Egypt and the Arab world — the first Arab strongman jailed by his own citizens — instead brought tens of thousands of Egyptians back into the streets. They denounced the verdict as a sham because the court also acquitted many officials more directly responsible for the police who killed the demonstrators, and a broad range of lawyers and political leaders said Mr. Mubarak’s conviction was doomed to reversal on appeal.
Presiding over a three-judge panel, Judge Ahmed Rafaat said that prosecutors had presented no evidence that either Mr. Mubarak or his top aides had directly ordered the killing of protesters. Instead, the judge found that Mr. Mubarak, 84, was an “accessory to murder” because he failed to stop the killing, a rationale that lawyers said would not meet the usual requirements for a murder conviction under Egyptian or international law.
The judges also sentenced Mr. Mubarak’s feared former interior minister, Habib el-Adly, to the same penalty for the same reason. But they dismissed corruption charges against Mr. Mubarak and his deeply unpopular sons, Alaa and Gamal, on technical grounds.
By nightfall, demonstrators filled Tahrir Square in a protest that matched the size and ideological diversity of the early days of the revolt, with Islamists and liberals once again protesting side by side. Protesters poured into the streets of Alexandria, Suez and other cities to rail against what they saw as a miscarriage of justice.
“It is all an act. It is a show,” said Alaa Hamam, 38, a Cairo University employee joining a protest in Tahrir Square, the symbolic heart of the uprising. “It is a provocation.”
For many Egyptians, the court’s handling of the case was the latest disappointment in a 16-month-old transition that has yielded some major accomplishments, but has not yet delivered the ratification of a constitution, the election of a president or the hand-over of power by interim military rulers.
Against an opaque backdrop of military rule, in which the generals, prosecutors and judges were all appointed by Mr. Mubarak, the degree of judicial independence is impossible to know. Demonstrators slammed the decision as a ruse designed to placate them without holding anyone accountable for the violence or corruption of the old government.
The ruling immediately became a political battleground in Egypt’s first competitive presidential race, expected to be decided this month by a runoff between the candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood and Ahmed Shafik, Mr. Mubarak’s last prime minister. Most analysts called the decision a blow to Mr. Shafik because of his close ties to Mr. Mubarak, but any further protests could increase public receptiveness to Mr. Shafik’s law-and-order message.
Mr. Mubarak’s conviction and court appearance — on a hospital gurney in the metal cage that holds criminal defendants in Egypt — offered the kind of vivid example of the humiliation of their once-invincible ruler that thrilled Egyptians with a feeling of liberation.
Mr. Mubarak, in dark glasses and a light-colored track suit, showed no reaction to the verdict.
Both sons stood in front of their father to try to shield him from the cameras. Alaa Mubarak appeared to recite verses from the Koran as the verdict was read. And after the ruling, both sons had tears in their eyes. They remain in jail while they face charges in an unrelated stock-manipulation case announced last week.
During the trial, Mr. Mubarak was housed in a military hospital, where he enjoyed visits from his family and a daily swim, according to news reports. After the verdict, a helicopter flew him to a Cairo prison.
State news media reported that after complaining of a “medical crisis,” Mr. Mubarak was treated in the helicopter on the ground, then refused to leave it and enter the prison for two and a half hours, complaining that he needed the support of his family.
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Kareem Fahim, Mayy El Sheikh and Liam Stack contributed reporting.
A version of this article appeared in print on June 3, 2012, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: Despite Life Sentence, Mixed Mubarak Verdict Brings Turmoil to Egypt.
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