CAIRO (AP) – An Egyptian court on Saturday dismissed murder charges against former president Hosni Mubarak in connection with the killing of protesters in the 2011 uprising that ended his nearly three-decade reign.
The ruling marks another major setback for the young activists who spearheaded the Arab Spring-inspired uprising nearly four years ago – many of whom are now in jail or have withdrawn from politics – and will reinforce the perception that Mubarak’s autocratic state remains in place, albeit led by a new president, former military chief Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi.
Saturday’s verdict concludes Mubarak’s retrial along with his two sons, his security chief and six top security commanders, who were all acquitted. Also on trial was businessman Hussein Salem, a longtime Mubarak friend tried in absentia. He too was acquitted.
Mubarak, 86, was also acquitted of corruption charges that he faced along with his sons Alaa and Gamal.
It was not immediately clear whether Mubarak would now walk free since he is serving a three-year jail term for corruption charges he was convicted of in May. He has been in detention since April 2011, but it is unclear if the past 3 1/2 years will be considered as time served.
Mubarak was convicted and sentenced to life in prison in 2012 on charges related to the killing of protesters, but the verdict was overturned on appeal the following year.
Mubarak has spent virtually all the time since he was detained in hospitals due to his poor health. On Saturday, he was brought to the defendants’ cage on a gurney. He wore dark glasses, a navy blue tie and a matching cardigan.
Nearly 900 protesters were killed in the 18-day uprising that ended when Mubarak stepped down, handing over power to the military. The trial, however, was concerned only with the killing of 239 protesters, whose names were cited in the charges sheet.
Presiding judge Mahmoud al-Rashidi made clear that the dismissal of the charges did not absolve Mubarak of the corruption and “feebleness” of the latter years of his 29-year rule and praised the January 2011 uprising, saying that its goals – freedom, bread and social justice – were legitimate. However, al-Rashidi said Mubarak, like any other human, erred at times and suggested that his old age should have spared him a criminal trial.
“To rule for or against him after he has become old will be left to history and the Judge of Judges, the Righteous and the Justice (God) who will question him about his rule,” said the judge, who threatened to jail anyone attending Saturday’s 45-minute hearing if they reacted in any way to the ruling before he adjourned the session.