Egypt´s Hosni Mubarak gets life sentence (LA TIMES) By Jeffrey Fleishman and Amro Hassan CAIRO, EGYPT 06/03/12)
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The sentence given Hosni Mubarak for his role in the deaths of
protesters last year is a milestone in the country´s evolution. But
Egyptians decry other aspects of the verdict as unjust.
CAIRO — The life sentence imposed on toppled President Hosni Mubarak
for complicity in the deaths of hundreds of protesters marks an
unprecedented milestone in Egypt´s path toward democracy yet serves
as a reminder of the political limitations challenging rebellions
that have swept the Arab world.
Mubarak epitomized the calculating autocrat, and Saturday´s verdict
reverberated across a region that has seldom seen the strong so
precipitously tumble in popular revolt. But behind the image of the
disgraced leader propped up on a stretcher in the defendants´ cage
remains a nation not fully free of his grasp.
His generals are still in charge and one of his loyalists may become
the next president. And while Mubarak, 84, was ordered behind bars,
six top police officials were acquitted of murder charges and the
deposed leader and his two sons were found not guilty of financial
In Egypt, jubilation continues to collide with despair, and victory
is tempered by setback. Mubarak has yanked his country across a
spectrum of emotion even as his fate represents a cautionary tale for
kings moving to quell protests in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain and a
despot seeking to crush rebellion in the bloodied villages and cities
The verdict also serves as fresh fodder in the Egyptian presidential
race between Ahmed Shafik, the last prime minister to serve Mubarak,
and Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsi.
Brotherhood members joined thousands of protesters in Cairo´s Tahrir
Square on Saturday evening to rail against a case that appeared to
protect the heart of Mubarak´s police state by absolving ranking
police officials in the crackdown on an uprising that last year
resulted in more than 840 deaths.
"This is injustice," said Safeya Sayed Shedid, whose son died in the
rebellion. "Now the blood of all martyrs has gone for nothing."
The months-long trial was marked by fistfights, recanting witnesses
and conflicting testimony. Presiding Judge Ahmed Refaat said the
prosecution´s confusing evidence failed to prove that the deposed
leader ordered the killings, but the judge blamed him for not
stopping the bloodshed.
In an impassioned indictment that distilled decades of suppressed
national rage, Refaat said Mubarak ruled for 30 years "without a
conscience and with a cold heart," subjecting his people to poverty,
shanty towns and dirty drinking water. He said Mubarak allowed Egypt,
once the "beacon" of the world, to collapse into "one of the most
deteriorated, backward countries."
The courtroom hushed as the jurist, dressed in a green sash, his
glasses sliding down his nose, said, "I will pronounce judgment ...
in the name of God."
He ordered Mubarak and former Interior Minister Habib Adli to prison
for the remainder of their lives for the killings of demonstrators
from Jan. 25 to Feb. 11, 2011. Mubarak, dressed in a striped shirt
and tan jacket, his hair brightly dyed black, listened stone-faced
behind dark sunglasses. Elsewhere in the courtroom, and across the
country, cheers rose.
But, as with so many things in Egypt over the last 16 months, the
euphoria was short-lived. The murder charges against the senior
police officials — who had directly commanded security forces during
the uprising — were dismissed. Further outrage swept the courtroom
when Mubarak´s sons, Alaa and Gamal, who stood in white prison
jumpsuits next to their father, were found not guilty of corruption
charges. Similar offenses against the elder Mubarak were also
Many said the proceedings amounted to a show trial orchestrated by
the secretive military-backed government and remnants of Mubarak´s
inner-circle. Legal experts said the acquittals increased the odds
that Mubarak´s conviction would be overturned on appeal.
"This is an unjust, politicized verdict. If Adli was sentenced to
life, then how on Earth did his aides get acquitted?" said Samir
Helmi, a lawyer representing the families of victims. "The judge said
that medical reports show injuries and bullets and yet he doesn´t
consider those bullets to have been shot by police officers?"
The attorney added: "Was he waiting for the dead to come out of their
graves and tell him personally?"
"God´s verdict is execution," families of victims shouted in the
court as a skirmish broke out and Refaat hastily left the bench.
Alaa Mubarak and brother Gamal, a banker once considered Egypt´s heir
apparent, remained in custody under other corruption charges. Their
father, an air force commander who became president after the 1981
assassination of Anwar Sadat, was wheeled out of the courtroom to a
helicopter. He had been staying in an army-run hospital in what has
been reported as relative luxury, but the prosecutor ordered his
transfer to Tora prison hospital in south Cairo.
The state news agency MENA reported that Mubarak suffered a "health
crisis" after the court session and was treated by doctors on the
flight to the prison. Egyptian news reports said he wept and resisted
leaving the helicopter.
The case marked the first time the leader of an Arab nation appeared
in court on criminal charges after a popular revolt. Former Tunisian
President Zine el Abidine ben Ali was tried in absentia after fleeing
to Saudi Arabia, and ousted Libyan dictator Moammar Kadafi was killed
while in the custody of rebels. Longtime Yemeni President Ali
Abdullah Saleh negotiated an end to his rule and remains free.
Mubarak´s verdict comes amid a polarizing presidential runoff
election campaign and battle over the drafting of a new constitution.
Shafik, who once referred to Mubarak as his role model, is in a tight
race with the Brotherhood´s Morsi in the June 16-17 election.
The contest pits a secular law-and-order retired fighter pilot
against an influential voice in a rising political Islam, delineating
the fault lines across an Arab world where the legacies of autocrats
are being shaken by forces they once easily manipulated. Yet
Mubarak´s state — built so completely around him for decades —
remains formidable: The generals he appointed head the ruling
military council, and millions of Egyptians weary of unrest and
suspicious of Islamists make up the core of Shafik´s support.
"We can still see Mubarak and his regime in all aspects of our social
and political life," said Amal Khairy, a human relations
manager. "Those in charge of the country are all Mubarak´s men
promoting the same agenda as Mubarak. Starting from the military
council to the lowest civil servant, they are all using the Mubarak
The army, accused of numerous human rights abuses, has promised to
turn power over to a civilian government by July. But the voices of
the young secular activists who ignited the uprising have been muted
against maneuverings by larger established forces. It has been clear
for months that the rebellion that ousted Mubarak lacks a unifying
vision to shape a new Egypt.
Judge Refaat recalled a more inspiring time. Before reading a verdict
that would lay bare the nation´s divisions, he conjured last year´s
dangerous winter days when Egyptians took to the streets. His words
seemed overly demonstrative, as if he had to remind a nation, much of
which is again preoccupied with day-to-day living, of Mubarak´s
downfall and arrest.
"The peaceful sons of the homeland emerged from every deep ravine
with all the pain they experienced from injustice, heartbreak,
humiliation and oppression," he said. "Carrying the burden of their
suffering on their shoulders, they marched peacefully toward Tahrir
Square ... demanding only justice, freedom and democracy."
The judge suggested that the trial was a sign that the ideals of the
revolution were being fulfilled. The court heard 250 hours of trial
testimony and read through 60,000 documents. Refaat said he and his
co-judges had not "rested for more than 100 days," adding that "this
has been a fair trial ... applied to the letter of the law."
But others saw flawed proceedings and the design of a coverup.
"The verdict is disastrous and a mockery of judicial guidelines,"
said Mohamed Maqboul, a lawyer for the families of victims. "What
Mubarak and Adli got are appealable verdicts and will eventually be
suspended. This is just a series of farcical shows in order to
appease public opinion."
By sunset, thousands of Egyptians had flocked to Tahrir Square, the
iconic ground that launched a revolt that has yet to bring stability.
They chanted and they cursed, not knowing, once again, where to put
their trust. Hassan is a news assistant in The Times´ Cairo bureau.
(Copyright © 2012 Los Angeles Times 06/03/12)
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