After six years of legal proceedings the Court of Cassation — Egypt’s highest judicial authority — issued a final ruling on 2 March acquitting former president Hosni Mubarak of any responsibility for the killing of hundreds of protesters during the 25 January 2011 Revolution against his rule.
The 89-year-old ousted president, confined to South Cairo’s Maadi Military Hospital since 2012, was flown to the Police Academy in an army helicopter to attend the session.
In June 2012 Mubarak was sentenced by a Cairo criminal court to life in prison for complicity in the murder of pro-democracy protesters. He was also found guilty on graft charges relating to the sale of natural gas to Israel. The corruption conviction was subsequently overturned by the Court of Cassation in 2013 and a retrial ordered on the complicity to murder charges.
In November 2014 the criminal court in charge of retrying Mubarak acquitted the former president and all co-defendants of killing protesters. The then prosecutor-general filed an appeal to the acquittal verdict.
On 2 March Mubarak’s lawyer Farid Al-Deeb called on the court to reject the prosecutor-general’s appeal and acquit Mubarak on the grounds that the Cairo Criminal Court had earlier acquitted Mubarak’s minister of interior Habib Al-Adli and four of Adli’s senior aides over the same charges.
No sooner had the court, headed by judge Ahmed Abdel-Qawi, issued the acquittal verdict than Mubarak’s supporters erupted into cries of “Long Live Justice”. Mubarak himself, lying on a stretcher wearing sunglasses, smiled and waved.
“How do you respond to the accusations levelled against you?” Abdel-Qawi asked Mubarak before reading out the judgement. Mubarak replied “it never happened.”
Othman Al-Hefnawi, a lawyer representing the families of those murdered during the anti-Mubarak uprising, requested the court summon President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi to testify given that he was head of Military Intelligence during the uprising. Al-Hefnawi also asked the government to pay LE100,000 in compensation to the families of each victim.
“The Court of Cassation has stated on seven occasions since 1939 that if co-defendants in a criminal case are acquitted of charges then the original and main defendant should also be acquitted,” argued Al-Deeb, referring to the earlier acquittal of Al-Adli and his aides. Al-Deeb added that the political developments which followed Mubarak’s ouster in February 2011 provided ample evidence that the Muslim Brotherhood helped its affiliate, the Palestinian movement Hamas, and the Lebanese Shia group Hizbullah, infiltrate Egypt on 28 January 2011, storm Tahrir Square and kill protesters and police to spread chaos.
“The trails of Interior Ministry officials showed they had no hand in any manslaughter and they were acquitted of the charges. All the witnesses summoned agreed that they never received orders from Mubarak to fire on protesters,” said Al-Deeb.
Mubarak’s two sons Alaa and Gamal, allowed by Abdel-Qawi to attend the hearing session, erupted with joy when they heard the acquittal verdict.
On 4 March Mubarak’s lawyer Al-Deeb told reporters he had submitted a request to Prosecutor-General Nabil Sadek asking that Mubarak be released from the Maadi Military Hospital.
Mubarak was sentenced to three years on 9 May 2015 after being convicted of embezzling public funds earmarked for the maintenance of presidential palaces. “Mubarak has now served five years in detention pending trials so I asked the prosecutor-general to release him at once,” said Al-Deeb.
Most legal experts agree there is now no impediment to Mubarak’s release. Mahmoud Kibiesh, former dean of Cairo University’s Faculty of Law, told Al-Ahram Weekly that verdicts issued by the Court of Cassation cannot be appealed. “Mubarak has already served the single prison sentence against him. He is now free to return to his family,” said Kibiesh.
The former president will not, however, be able to travel abroad because the sources of his wealth are still being investigated by the Ministry of Justice’s Illicit Gains Apparatus (IGA).
“The wealth of Mubarak and his two sons are still subject to an investigation by the IGA,” said Kibiesh.
Yet, according to Al-Deeb, Mubarak’s personal wealth is just $1 million. “Mubarak collected this modest sum during his 30-year-old tenure as president of Egypt,” said his lawyer.
“What is important now is that President Mubarak be released and so he can return to his family. I do not think that he wants to travel anywhere outside Egypt at the moment.
Fomer judge Refaat Al-Sayed said though Mubarak is now free he cannot return to political life or exercise any political rights since “the court of cassation found him guilty of embezzling public funds.”
The single conviction, though, is unlikely to impact on Mubarak’s funeral arrangements when the time comes. The former president’s family, says Al-Sayed, could request an official military funeral. “Several former military officials were convicted of similar charges and allowed military funerals when they died,” said the former judge.
Speculation has been rife since Mubarak’s acquittal that he wants to travel to Saudi Arabia to perform the haj, or pilgrimage.
Political analysts agree that Mubarak’s acquittal sounds the death knell of the 2011 revolution which forced him from power.
Pro-democracy activist George Ishak told the Weekly that “opponents aggressive to the 25 January Revolution who describe it as a foreign conspiracy will be delighted with the verdict.”
“This revolution broke out to remove an authoritarian regime and replace it with a democratic system. The acquittal of the foremost symbol of pre-2011 authoritarianism was also a death penalty to the revolution. Egypt is back to square one,” said Ishak.