Egypt court clears ex-ministers in graft cases
Cairo, July 5, 2011
An Egyptian court on Tuesday cleared three ministers from former President Hosni Mubarak's administration of graft, the first ruling to exonerate former ministers since Egypt's popular uprising.
Some of the defendants looked surprised when the verdicts were read out in the court room, which was filled mainly with their relatives and friends, and cheers of 'long live justice' erupted.
The protests that unseated Mubarak were driven by widespread anger at high-level corruption and the trials of his former associates are being seen as a credibility test for the military council that took power after his downfall.
Former information minister Anas El-Fekky and former finance minister Youssef Boutros-Ghali were found innocent of charges of graft, specifically squandering public funds. Boutros-Ghali, who has fled the country, was tried in absentia.
In a separate ruling by the same court, former housing minister Ahmed El-Maghrabi and Palm Hills Development Chairman Yasseen Mansour were also acquitted of graft.
El-Fekky, who was close to Mubarak. still faces further charges, and Boutros-Ghali and Maghrabi have been sentenced to terms in prison for other crimes.
The prosecutor indicted El-Fekky and Boutros-Ghali in March on charges of profiteering and wasting public funds after investigations showed El-Fekky received 36 million Egyptian pounds ($6.04 million) from the Finance Ministry for parliamentary election media campaigns and to promote the ousted ruling party.
El-Fekky still faces charges that he deliberately misused funds from the state-run Radio and Television Union.
Boutros-Ghali, widely viewed in Egypt as a public face of a government that enriched the wealthy at the expense of the poor, quit his post in late January then fled abroad only days after the eruption of the uprising that ousted Mubarak.
He was convicted last month and sentenced to 30 years in prison for profiteering and abuse of state and private assets.
In a third ruling, former Trade Minister Rachid Mohamed Rachid was sentenced in absentia to five years in prison for squandering public funds.
Rachid was already convicted in June to 5 years in prison for profiteering and squandering public funds. Rachid and two business executives had been charged with squandering public wealth in connection with the Industrial Modernisation Centre, a state-run body to support industry.
Prosecutors said Rachid, who fled Egypt after the uprising and has already been convicted in another case, had wasted EGP12.8 million ($2.14 million) of state funds. – Reuters
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