Egypt: Ex-ruler Hosni Mubarak, accused in deaths of hundreds, cleared of charges – CNN

Cairo (CNN) — Egypt’s former longtime ruler Hosni Mubarak was effectively cleared Saturday of charges linking him to the deaths of hundreds of protesters and probably will be released in months, a stunning reversal for a man who faced life imprisonment or worse after a revolution toppled him in 2011.

A Cairo judge capped a monthslong retrial by dismissing the death charges — reversing the former strongman’s convictions in 2012 — and finding Mubarak not guilty of corruption.

Mubarak, who ruled Egypt as president for 29 years, was stoic as his supporters cheered the decision in the courtroom. The 86-year-old, reclining on a hospital gurney behind a defendants’ cage, nodded while fellow defendants kissed him on the head.

Later, he told the country’s Sada ElBalad TV station in a brief phone interview that he “didn’t commit anything.”

“I laughed when I heard the first verdict,” he said of the first trial. “When it came to the second verdict, I said I was waiting. It would go either way. It wouldn’t have made a difference to me either way.”

Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has been held since he stepped down during the country's uprising in 2011. He was convicted in 2012 on charges of inciting violence against protesters and was sentenced to life in prison. But Mubarak appealed, and a retrial was granted.Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has been held since he stepped down during the country’s uprising in 2011. He was convicted in 2012 on charges of inciting violence against protesters and was sentenced to life in prison. But Mubarak appealed, and a retrial was granted.
Then-Vice President Mubarak, left, joins President Anwar Sadat at a military parade on October 6, 1981, the day Islamic fundamentalists from within the army assassinated Sadat. Mubarak succeeded Sadat as Egypt's president, maintaining power for nearly three decades.Then-Vice President Mubarak, left, joins President Anwar Sadat at a military parade on October 6, 1981, the day Islamic fundamentalists from within the army assassinated Sadat. Mubarak succeeded Sadat as Egypt’s president, maintaining power for nearly three decades.
Eight days after Sadat's assassination, Mubarak is officially sworn in as Egypt's president on October 14, 1981. Mubarak was re-elected in 1987, 1993, 1999 and 2005.Eight days after Sadat’s assassination, Mubarak is officially sworn in as Egypt’s president on October 14, 1981. Mubarak was re-elected in 1987, 1993, 1999 and 2005.
Mubarak poses with U.S. President Ronald Reagan at the White House in 1982. Mubarak poses with U.S. President Ronald Reagan at the White House in 1982.
British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher meets with Mubarak in London in 1985. British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher meets with Mubarak in London in 1985.
Diana, Princess of Wales, visits Mubarak during a trip to Egypt in 1992.Diana, Princess of Wales, visits Mubarak during a trip to Egypt in 1992.
Mubarak and U.S. President Bill Clinton hold a joint press conference in 1995.Mubarak and U.S. President Bill Clinton hold a joint press conference in 1995.
The front page of the Ethiopian Herald reports a foiled assassination attempt on Mubarak on June 27, 1995. He survived an attempt by an al Qaeda-affiliated group in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.The front page of the Ethiopian Herald reports a foiled assassination attempt on Mubarak on June 27, 1995. He survived an attempt by an al Qaeda-affiliated group in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Mubarak, third from left, joins President Bill Clinton, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, second from left, Jordan's King Hussein, third from right, and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, second from right, in Washington in 1995. The Israeli leader and Arafat signed maps representing the redeployment of Israeli troops in the West Bank.Mubarak, third from left, joins President Bill Clinton, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, second from left, Jordan’s King Hussein, third from right, and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, second from right, in Washington in 1995. The Israeli leader and Arafat signed maps representing the redeployment of Israeli troops in the West Bank.
Mubarak welcomes Pope John Paul II to Egypt for a three-day visit in 2000.Mubarak welcomes Pope John Paul II to Egypt for a three-day visit in 2000.
U.S. President George W. Bush greets Mubarak at the White House in 2002 to talk about the Middle East crisis and the war in Afghanistan.U.S. President George W. Bush greets Mubarak at the White House in 2002 to talk about the Middle East crisis and the war in Afghanistan.
In 2005, Mubarak again runs for a six-year term in the country's first multiparty presidential election. He was declared the official winner with about 88% of the vote, but many considered the election to be a sham.In 2005, Mubarak again runs for a six-year term in the country’s first multiparty presidential election. He was declared the official winner with about 88% of the vote, but many considered the election to be a sham.
After weeks of Egyptians protesting Mubarak's 29-year reign, the president steps down from office on February 11, 2011, causing celebrations in Cairo's Tahrir Square.After weeks of Egyptians protesting Mubarak’s 29-year reign, the president steps down from office on February 11, 2011, causing celebrations in Cairo’s Tahrir Square.
The ousted leader lies in a medical bed inside a cage in a courtroom during his verdict hearing in Cairo on June 2, 2012. A judge sentenced Mubarak to life in prison for his role in ordering the killing of protesters in the 2011 uprisings.The ousted leader lies in a medical bed inside a cage in a courtroom during his verdict hearing in Cairo on June 2, 2012. A judge sentenced Mubarak to life in prison for his role in ordering the killing of protesters in the 2011 uprisings.
Mubarak and his sons Gamal, left, and Alaa are seen behind the defendants' cage during their retrial at the Police Academy in Cairo. Mubarak was granted a retrial. Later, a court ordered Mubarak be freed, pending his retrial.Mubarak and his sons Gamal, left, and Alaa are seen behind the defendants’ cage during their retrial at the Police Academy in Cairo. Mubarak was granted a retrial. Later, a court ordered Mubarak be freed, pending his retrial.

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Photos: Mubarak through the yearsPhotos: Mubarak through the years

Egypt: Women after the revolution

Mubarak had been convicted of inciting, arranging and assisting to kill peaceful protesters during the country’s 2011 uprising and was sentenced to life in prison. He appealed and was granted a new trial last year.

Also acquitted Saturday were Mubarak’s former Interior Minister Habib el-Adly and six of el-Adly’s aides, who’d been accused of being connected to the deaths of 239 protesters as security forces cracked down on them in 2011. Mubarak’s two sons also were acquitted Saturday of corruption.

Mubarak still has months remaining on a three-year sentence for a previous conviction for embezzlement.

Both sides have alleged that Mubarak’s trials have been politicized, with supporters arguing he was unfairly vilified and opponents fearing that he’d be acquitted as memories of the revolution faded.

His legal fortunes did seem to parallel the political climate — just last year, Mohamed Morsy, the Islamist who became Egypt’s first democratically elected president, supported a retrial, with some arguing Mubarak should have received a death sentence rather than life in captivity.

But Morsy himself was deposed by the military in July 2013, as opponents accused him of pursuing an Islamist agenda at the exclusion of other factions.

And now the Arab Spring revolt that ousted Mubarak has come nearly full circle — Mubarak is months from release; Morsy is jailed, his Muslim Brotherhood banned; and Morsy supporters allege the current government has returned to Mubarak’s authoritarian practices.

Explaining the verdict

Judge Mahmoud el-Rashidy said he dropped charges against Mubarak because Cairo Criminal Court didn’t have the jurisdiction to try him for the protesters’ deaths.

The judge said the case that prosecutors initially referred to the court listed only el-Adly and his aides as defendants — not Mubarak himself.

But after mass protests pressured the prosecutor general to question Mubarak, a second referral was made to the court, and the two cases were merged into one.

Lawyer Hoda Nasralla, who represents the families of 65 slain and injured protesters, said the inclusion of Mubarak in a second referral should have trumped his exclusion in the first.

“The judge shied away from directly acquitting Mubarak even though he was accused of conspiring with Adly, and Adly was acquitted,” she said. “The judge resorted to formalities instead.”

‘I want only God’s retribution’

Salway El-Sayed, mother of one of the slain 2011 protesters, sat down on a sidewalk outside the court after she heard Saturday’s verdicts, praying to God to deliver justice.

She broke down in tears, her hands shaking, as she recalled her son Tamer Hanafy, who was killed in January 2011 in Tahrir Square, epicenter of the uprising.

“I’m worried my son’s blood would go in vain,” she said. “Our children’s blood isn’t cheap. Their blood is precious, like any other blood.”

“I don’t want execution,” she continued. “This won’t bring back my son. … I want only God’s retribution. Nothing more.”

How it started

In January 2011, throngs of Egyptians filled the streets of Cairo to decry the country’s poverty, unemployment and repression. Protesters called for Mubarak to step down but were met by a fierce and often violent government crackdown. Mubarak eventually stepped down in 2011.

That freed up long-supressed Islamist movements, including the Muslim Brotherhood, to run for office. Morsy, backed by the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, became president in June 2012.

But Morsy was ousted in a coup about a year later amid widespread protests against his rule. Since then, Cairo’s military-installed government has banned the Brotherhood, calling it a terrorist group — an allegation it denies — and accusing it of being behind a wave of deadly attacks on police and the military.

Many Islamist and secular activists have been arrested and given lengthy sentences. A restrictive protest law and repeated deadly crackdowns on demonstrations followed.

Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the general who led Morsy’s ouster, was elected president in May after leaving the military to run for the office.

Not free yet

Since Mubarak stepped down in February 2011, the ailing former ruler has appeared in court numerous times on a variety of charges, often wheeled in on a gurney. His lawyers say he suffered health problems after his 2011 arrest, including a stroke, and he has served much of his prison time at a military medical facility.

In May, a Cairo court sentenced him to three years in prison for embezzlement. His sons Gamal and Alaa were sentenced to four years each on the same charge.

All three were convicted of embezzling $18 million that was allocated for the renovation of presidential palaces. The Mubaraks have insisted they are not guilty.

Mubarak is expected to be released in the coming months, since his three-year sentence includes time already served.

Journalist Sarah Sirgany reported from Cairo; CNN’s Jason Hanna and Holly Yan reported and wrote from Atlanta. CNN’s Yousuf Basil contributed to this report.



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