News / Africa

    Egyptians Protest Mubarak Verdict

    Egyptian anti-Mubarak protesters demonstrate in Cairo's Tahrir square on June 2, 2012.
    Egyptian anti-Mubarak protesters demonstrate in Cairo's Tahrir square on June 2, 2012.
    Elizabeth Arrott
    CAIRO - Thousands of Egyptians have taken to the streets to protest the verdicts in the trial of former President Hosni Mubarak.  The ousted leader was given a life sentence for his role in  the killing of protesters during last year's uprising, but others in the case were acquitted.


    Demonstrators turned out in Alexandria, Suez and other cities across the nation.  In Cairo, protesters flooded Tahrir Square, the heart of the revolution, demanding everything from a retrial to the death penalty for Mubarak.

    • Anti-Mubarak protesters chant in front of a Cairo courthouse, awaiting a verdict in the trial of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, June 2, 2012. (VOA/Y. Weeks)
    • A woman holds a sign with the image of a slain protester in front of a courthouse in Cairo awaiting a verdict in the trial of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, June 2, 2012. (VOA/Y. Weeks)
    • A couple honors one the protesters killed during the uprising, June 2, 2012. (VOA/Y. Weeks)
    • The crowd displays a banner with photos of those killed in the uprising in Cairo, June 2, 2012. (VOA/Y. Weeks)
    • Anti-Mubarak protesters embrace at the news of his guilty verdict in Cairo, June 2, 2012. (VOA/Y. Weeks)
    • A brother of the protester killed during the Tahrir uprising protests in Cairo, June 2, 2012. (VOA/Y. Weeks)
    • Jubilation as news of the guilty verdict spreads in Cairo, June 2, 2012. (VOA/Y. Weeks)
    • The crowd sets off fireworks as Mubarak is found guilty, June 2, 2012. (VOA/Y. Weeks)
    • Also near the courthouse, but separated by a sea of riot police, were Mubarak supporters, June 2, 2012. (VOA/Y. Weeks)
    • Riot police stood guard outside of a Cairo courthouse just before former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak was sentenced to life in prison, June 2, 2012. (VOA/Y. Weeks)
    • Young anti-Mubarak protesters chant outside of the Cairo courthouse where former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak awaited a verdict in his trial, June 2, 2012. (VOA/Y. Weeks)
    • Riot police stand guard as anti-Mubarak protesters chant in the background in Cairo, June 2, 2012. (VOA/Y. Weeks)

    Weak evidence

    The prosecutor had called for the harsher sentence, but the judge, citing weak evidence, used his discretion in handing down a life term.  He found that Mubarak failed to prevent the deaths during the first week of the uprising, but  was not directly responsible for them.  The same verdict and sentence was given to former interior minister Habib al Adli.  

    Equally galling to the anti-Mubarak crowds was the acquittal of six top security officials, with some demonstrators arguing the case ended up like the revolution itself, with the leaders off the stage, but the next tier unscathed.

    It was a rapid turn of mood from the jubilation outside the courthouse when the verdict was announced earlier in the day.

    Family members of those killed embraced, wept, and fell to the ground in prayer.

    Protester Mohammed held a picture of his brother Bilal, killed during the first days of the uprising. He said his brother went out to ask for “bread, freedom and equality” -  instead, he got a bullet.

    From joy to anger

    ​But as the implications of the verdict were absorbed, and the chance it could be easily overturned became clearer, the joy turned to anger.

    Some were also furious that Mubarak, his sons Gamal and Alaa, and others were acquitted of corruption charges.  They suspect the vast wealth allegedly accumulated by the Mubarak family and inner circle would remain in their hands.
     
    But some opponents of the old government felt there would, ultimately, be justice for the victims of the uprising.
     
    Abdel Basset el Fasheni, who works with the Al Azhar Institute, said the blood of the martyrs, whether Muslim or Christian, is the responsibility of all Egyptians.  "If we're not accountable in this life, we will be in front of God," he noted.

    Sharp divide

    El Fasheni's sentiments reflect the sharp divide many feel about the future of the country, as voters must choose who will succeed Mubarak.  The second round of voting for a new president pits Islamist Mohamed Morsi against Mubarak's last prime minister, Ahmed Shafiq.

    Shafiq has defended the former president, and his commander-in-chief during his long tenure in the Air Force.  But as the crowds grew Saturday and other political leaders condemned the trial, Shafiq was moved to promise that, if elected, he would not pardon his former boss.

    Related video report by Jeff Seldin


    * Follow VOA's Elizabeth Arrott on Twitter @VOAArrott

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