Arab Spring Returns to Cairo as Egyptians Protest Mubarak Acquittal on Corruption
Hosni Mubarak, the former president of Egypt, was sentenced to life in prison this Saturday for failing to stop the killing of protesters during the uprising that forced him from power last year.
However, the ousted autocrat and his sons were acquitted of corruption charges which angered Egyptians and renewed calls for a massive protest at Tahrir Square, the heart of the uprising, at 5 p.m.
After the sentencing, 84-year old Mubarak suffered a "health crisis" while on a helicopter flight to a Cairo prison hospital. Earlier, he sat “stone-faced” in the courtroom's metal defendants' cage while judge Ahmed Rifaat read out the conviction and sentence against him. His sons Gamal and Alaa looked nervous but also did not react to either the conviction of their father or their own acquittals.
Mubarak was convicted of complicity in the killing of some 900 protesters during the 18-day uprising that forced him to resign in February 2011. He and his two sons were acquitted of corruption charges, along with a family friend who is on the run.
Angered by the acquittals of the Mubarak sons and six top police officers, lawyers for the victims' families broke out chanting inside the courtroom as soon as Rifaat finished reading the verdict. "The people want to cleanse the judiciary," they chanted. Some raised banners that read: "God's verdict is execution."
Outside the courtroom, there was tension and scuffles, as thousands of riot police in helmets and shields held the restive, mostly anti-Mubarak crowd back behind a cordon protecting the court. Later, thousands of protesters gathered in Cairo's Tahrir Square, birthplace of the uprising, and in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria on Egypt's northern coast. They chanted slogans denouncing the trial as "theatrical" and against the ruling generals who took over for Mubarak, led by his former defense minister. "Execute them, execute them!" chanted the protesters in Alexandria.
Mubarak's verdict came just days after presidential elections have been boiled down to a June 16-17 contest between Mubarak's last prime minister, one-time protege Ahmed Shafiq, and Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood, a fundamentalist Islamist group that Mubarak persecuted for most of his years in power.