Saturday, November 29, 2014

Egypt Court Drops Murder Charges Against Mubarak
Egyptian security forces have been used to break up demonstrations.
Ousted Leader Remains in Jail on Separate, Three-Year Sentence

Wall Street Journal
Nov. 29, 2014 4:02 p.m. ET

CAIRO—An Egyptian court dismissed murder charges against former President Hosni Mubarak on Saturday in the killing of hundreds of protesters by police in a 2011 uprising against his decades of autocratic rule, a decision that comes as the nation slides back toward authoritarianism.

The ruling, read by the judge presiding over a panel of jurists who were considering charges of culpability in the murder of the protesters, caps a nearly four-year process that led to the former president’s sentence of life in prison in 2012. The verdict was overturned on a technicality in 2013 and a retrial was ordered.

In addition to dismissing murder charges against the former president, his interior minister, Habib Al Adly, and six aides on Saturday, the judge announced that Mr. Mubarak and his two sons, Alaa and Gamal, were found not guilty of corruption.

Mr. Mubarak, 86 years old, is serving a three-year prison term after being found guilty on separate corruption charges in May. It was unclear Saturday if he would complete that sentence in a military hospital, where he is being held because of his frail health, or be released, officials said.

In Tahrir Square, the telegenic epicenter of the 2011 revolt, several hundred people gathered to applaud and protest the court’s decision. Police tolerated the impromptu rally for a few hours but suddenly moved in, firing water cannons and tear gas to disperse the protest.

In a statement, the interior ministry said the demonstration was allowed until it was “infiltrated” by Muslim Brotherhood supporters who incited the crowd with chants against the police and military. Witnesses disputed that account, saying the entire protest was peaceful until police attacked it.

The judge’s decision was the final legal hurdle facing Mr. Mubarak after he was detained following his ouster on Feb. 11, 2012 after nearly 30 years in office. Legal experts said judicial authorities could rule that his detention could count as time served, raising the possibility that Mr. Mubarak could be freed in the coming weeks, despite his conviction on embezzlement charges in May.

The courtroom erupted in cheers after chief judge Mahmoud al-Rashidi finished reading the verdicts. Mr. Mubarak smiled and embraced his sons inside the defendants’ cage.

Later, speaking to a private satellite news program by telephone, Mr. Mubarak was defiant, suggesting the criminal proceedings against him were politically motivated.

“I did not do anything at all,” he said.

In dozens of homes, families of the protesters who were killed in the 2011 clashes with police expressed agony.

“Today, we were killed again,” said Amal Shaker, the mother of Ahmed Zain El Abedin, who was killed during the 18 days of demonstrations against Mr. Mubarak. “They acquitted the officers who followed the orders and killed our sons and now they acquit their superiors—the ones who gave the order to kill.”

As Egypt’s political transition has stumbled under pressure from the military, families seeking justice for the deaths of their relatives have had no relief. Nearly 200 police officers who faced charges for killing of protesters were acquitted or had their cases dismissed for lack of evidence.

Mr. Mubarak’s 2012 conviction was thrown out on appeal because of a procedural error.

Once billed as the trial of the century in Egypt, public interest in Mr. Mubarak’s journey through the legal system has waned since the nation underwent seismic political changes after the January 2011 uprising that unseated him.

Egypt held its first democratic presidential elections in June 2012, which Mohammed Morsi, a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, won. He was then ousted by the military in July 2013, following large street demonstrations denouncing his rule.

Mr. Morsi was imprisoned and is currently facing a number of charges in separate trials, including treason and murder, which rights groups have characterized as politically motivated.

The former general who carried out the coup, Abdel Fattah Al Sisi, nominated himself for president in March and months later won against a weak opponent—reviving draconian laws against dissent as he presided over a fierce crackdown on Islamists and many of the figures who drove the uprising against Mr. Mubarak.

Legal experts said Saturday’s verdicts relating to Mr. Mubarak and the other defendants could be appealed, but there was little political will to do so.

The case had been mired in confusion and lacked transparency. Though a government sanctioned study found that nearly 900 people were killed during the 2011 uprising, the judge said on Saturday only 239 of the victims had been named in the case.

Mr. al-Rashidi, the judge, suggested during his reading of the verdict that prosecutors had erred in bringing a criminal case against the former president and that a criminal court didn’t have legal jurisdiction, leading him to dismiss the charges of murder.

He also said because of Mr. Mubarak’s advanced age and years of “public service,” it would best be left for history and god to judge him. He denied that the decision had “anything do with politics.”

The corruption charges Mr. Mubarak and his sons, along with a longtime associate, fugitive businessman Hussein Salem, were acquitted for involved the illegal sale of natural gas to Israel at reduced rates and for allegedly receiving vacation homes in exchange for political favors.

Write to Tamer El-Ghobashy at

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