Egypt's state media say former president Hosni Mubarak has suffered a “health crisis” while on his way to a Cairo prison hospital.
Mr. Mubarak and his interior minister, Habib el-Adly, were sentenced to life in prison, found guilty Saturday of “committing pre-meditated crimes” in the killing of more than 800 Egyptians during the popular uprising in the country last year.
Mr. Mubarak, in sunglasses, lying on a hospital gurney inside the same courtroom cage in which he appeared when the trial began last August, showed little emotion as the court ruling was read. He was then quickly flown to the indignity of Torah Prison, possibly suffering a heart attack as he arrived by helicopter. He will reside in the hospital of the prison in which so many of the enemies of his regime were sentenced.
It was a verdict to which almost all Egyptians looked forward. For those who suffered under or fought against the human rights abuses of the 29-year-long Mubarak regime, it was a moment of sublime vindication.
“Mubarak will go down in history as a man who killed his own people,” said Hisham Kassem, a past head of the Egyptian Organization of Human Rights and founding publisher of the independent Al Masry al Youm newspaper. “I’m relieved that now he will not be entitled to the honour of a military funeral,” said Mr. Kassem, who worked for two decades against the regime’s criminal excesses.
For the majority of Egyptians it was more a relief that the trial was over. They long for life to return to what passed as normal before the “revolution,” without the chaos and economic decline that has characterized life since then.
Even Mubarak supporters, who would be shocked at the audacity of a panel of three judges to find their deposed leader guilty, will take solace in the fact that the man was not sentenced to hang, as the conviction might have merited.
Few expected the court to be so courageous, particularly since most legal observers considered the evidence to be circumstantial at best – yes, the president undoubtedly knew that security police were acting in such a way that endangered lives or perhaps deliberately killed people, but the smoking gun was not to be found in Mr. Mubarak’s hand.
It would have come as little surprise that Mr. el-Adly was convicted of giving orders to shoot to kill, but it must have shocked critics of the police force that the six senior police officials also charged with complicity in the killing of unarmed protesters and bystanders were found not guilty of the charges. The court concluded they were only following orders from higher up.
Even as the stunning news of these verdicts is digested, Egyptians also will be very surprised that the charges of corruption also brought against Mr. Mubarak’s two sons, Alaa and Gamal, were dropped by the court, apparently because the charges were brought after a statute of limitations had expired.
The two younger Mubaraks had been accused of accepting bribes – villas in the Egyptian resort area of Sharm el-Sheikh – to help secure their father’s influence in facilitating land concessions to resort developer Hussein Salem, who has since fled the country. Another of Mr. Salem’s companies also stands accused of exporting natural gas to Israel at artificially low prices and thereby squandering public revenue. He is also accused of illegally profiting by having exclusive rights to export the gas improperly granted to him by then-president Mubarak.
One Egyptian business consultant who has had dealings with firms close to Gamal Mubarak said he had expected “the book to be thrown at the sons, while daddy would be let off.” It was not to be.
Throughout the morning’s court appearance, Alaa and Gamal Mubarak stood with arms folded across their chests blocking most of the people in the court from seeing their father. They too showed little but defiance at the proceedings.
Immediately, as the initial verdict of a conviction of Mr. Mubarak and Mr. el-Adly was declared, the crowd of protesters outside the courtroom erupted in celebration. Then, when news sunk in that the six security commanders had been acquitted, the mood turned ugly and many protesters began to push and shove the phalanx of security forces guarding the military building that housed the courtroom. There will be great bitterness that the police, so hated by many Egyptians, have been let off.
However, it is unlikely that verdict will prompt the kind of riots that would have ensued had Hosni Mubarak not been convicted.
“He’s a jailbird, now,” said a satisfied Mr. Kassem, the human rights activist and publisher.
With a report from Reuters