Protest follows verdict to acquit Egypt’s ex-leader Mubarak of murder conspiracy charges
Addressing journalists in attendance, chief judge Mahmud Kamel al-Rashidi warned the media they should reserve judgment until they had read the massive 1,430 verdict in its entirety.
Surreal. 1,430 pages of Mubarak verdict wrapped in Egyptian-flag-colored ribbons. pic.twitter.com/PhHoVTRsla
— Mai El-Sadany (@maitelsadany) November 29, 2014
The former leader had been charged along with seven of his former police commanders for the death of 239 protesters – a fraction of the 850 people activists believe died in the unrest. Judge al-Rashidi said the charges had been politically motivated and did not deserve to be tried in his court. Mubarak's interior minister Habib el-Adly and six aides were also found not guilty of conspiracy to commit murder.
— RT (@RT_com) November 29, 2014
The court further found that neither Mubarak, his aides, nor his two sons, Gamal and Alaa, were guilty of corruption charges stemming from a controversial gas deal with Israel. Hussein Salem, a businessman and longtime confident of Mubarak, was similarly found not guilty after being tried in absentia.
— Patrick Kingsley (@PatrickKingsley) November 29, 2014
The sweeping exoneration was met with cheers in the packed courtroom.
Despite the verdict, Mubarak will not be released from prison immediately, as he is serving a 3-year sentence for embezzling public funds. Following the reading of the verdict, Mubarak said he had done "nothing wrong."
Cheers, applause in courtroom as Hosni #Mubarak's sons embrace the toppled autocrat after they find out they are acquitted of all charges
— Bel Trew - بل ترو (@Beltrew) November 29, 2014
Mubarak was initially sentenced to life imprisonment for the deaths in 2012, along with former Interior Minister Habib al-Adly. That sentence was later overturned by an appeals court on a technicality.
Upwards of 5,000 police officers had been deployed to provide security at the courthouse, though passions have waned since he was first deposed nearly 4 years ago. Anticipating any potential outbursts in the courtroom, prior to reading the verdict, the judge warned that anyone who disrupted the court could face a year in prison.
Saturday's verdict had initially been slated for September 27, but Judge al-Rashidi postponed it, saying he had not had ample time to write out his reasoning in light of the thousands of case filed presented during the retrial.
— Ali Hashem علي هاشم (@alihashem_tv) November 29, 2014
Meahwhile, Mubarak's Islamist successor Mohammad Morsi, who was himself toppled by Field Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in July 2013, has been put on trial for incitement to commit murder and violence. Ironically, perhaps, many of those charges stem from the anti-Mubarak uprising, as well as the army-led coup that drove him from power.
He is also facing espionage charges.
Following a massive crackdown against Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood, nearly 1,000 were killed and thousands more were arrested. Several secular and liberal youth activists have also been imprisoned for staging unauthorized protests following Morsi’s ouster.
#Mubarak acquitted of criminal charges for killing 800 protesters; 78 youth imprisoned for 3-5yrs for peaceful protests. Egyptian Revolution
— Zaahira Y'elena (@ZaahiraYelena) November 29, 2014
Saturday's verdict will further fuel fears that Mubarak-era rulers are regaining lost ground.
RT contributor Bel Trew said despite the muted response, a public response was likely to come once Mubarak is actually released from jail.
"Seeing Hosni Mubark, who was toppled after nationwide protests, walking free in the streets of Cairo or in his villa in Sharm el-Sheikh, is going to greatly upset people. So I expect there to be further protests," she said.
Later in the evening, protesters began gathering near Cairo's iconic Tahrir Square to voice their frustration with the verdict. No violence or arrests have been reported thus far. On Saturday afternoon, security forces shut down the iconic square, following the announcement of the verdict. The closure of the square followed reports that families of slain protesters planned to head to the famed site, which served as the epicenter of the protest movement that swept Mubarak from power.
— Amr No 2 CC (@Cairo67Unedited) November 29, 2014
The head of the Cairo traffic authority, Hamdy El-Hadidi, told Al-Ahram Arabic news website that security forces had ramped up their presence on the roads leading to the square. A protester is currently live streaming outside of Tahrir Square, where the crowd has considerably swelled over the past several hours.
Crowd protesting Mubarak acquittal near entrance to Tahrir square has grown. Chanting against military. pic.twitter.com/GCb9qltWf1
— Sharif Kouddous (@sharifkouddous) November 29, 2014
— Amr A. Ismail (@amrAismail) November 29, 2014
Social media estimates have put the number of demonstrators calling for the fall of the ruling regime at around 5,000.
— mia (@amiramikhail) November 29, 2014
Belabored by years of unrest, Al-Sisi has made jump starting Egypt's flagging economy a top priority. Critics say he has largely ignored the desire for democratic freedoms, which brought Mubarak down after ruling the country for three-decades. He is further attempting to mend relations with foreign and regional powers who didn't support the manner in which Morsi, the democratically elected president, was driven from power.
— Mariam Taher (@mariaamtaher) November 29, 2014
The military-backed government's fear of protests became apparent on Friday, when a little-known Islamist group's failed effort to organize a successful protest did not stop authorities from locking down Cairo. Two Egyptian army officers were killed in two separate drive by shootings that took place in Cairo and the northern province of Qalioubiya. A police conscript was also killed in Giza.
Four civilians were also killed during anti-government demonstrations and unrest around the country.