Mubarak verdict adds to Egypt vote tension
Cairo, June 3, 2012
Egyptian pro-democracy campaigners called for a new uprising on Sunday, enraged that a court had spared former leader Hosni Mubarak his life over the killing of protesters during the street revolt that ended his three-decade rule.
In the first judicial reckoning of a leader toppled in last year's Arab spring uprisings, Mubarak was handed a life prison sentence. His sons were found innocent of corruption charges and senior policemen were acquitted.
Thousands took to the streets for protests that went on through the night in Cairo's Tahrir Square and in other cities, adding to political tension building since Mubarak's last prime minister made it through to a presidential election run-off.
Many took the verdicts as proof the Mubarak clan still holds sway as Egypt prepares for the vote on June 16 and 17, billed as the final stage of an army-led transition to democracy.
'This was not a fair verdict and there is mass rejection of the judge's ruling,' said one protester, Amr Magdy. 'Tahrir will fill up again with protesters. In Egypt the only way you can get any justice is by protesting because all the institutions are still controlled by Mubarak figures.'
Many of the young liberal and left-wing revolutionaries who led last year's uprising were dismayed when their own candidates lost the first round of a presidential election last month.
The run-off will pit Mubarak's last prime minister Ahmed Shafiq, who holds Mubarak as a role model, against the candidate of the socially conservative Muslim Brotherhood, Mohamed Mursi.
Suspicion is widespread that the military, led by Mubarak's old defence minister, will still wield heavy influence after the new president takes office. The electoral success of Shafiq, a former air force commander, has deepened those fears.
Egypt has been led by army officers since the king was overthrown in 1952.
On Sunday morning, a few hundred protesters gathered in Tahrir Square - focal point of the January 2011 revolt that brought down longtime US ally Mubarak - vowing to stay until there was justice for those killed in the uprising.
'Yesterday people were united like in the early days of the revolution. I felt the revolution is returning,' 46-year-old engineer Osama Awad in Tahrir said.
He said Mubarak must be tried again because key evidence had been concealed and Egyptians must unite against Shafiq.
'When Mursi wins, we can re-try Mubarak and the old regime,' Awad said.
Dozens of young men ransacked Shafiq's campaign office in Fayoum south of Cairo overnight, the second such attack in recent days, state news website al-Ahram reported. A Shafiq campaigner in Cairo said he was not aware of the attack.
Footage posted on Al-Ahram's website showed youths destroying and burning Shafiq's pictures and banners and others chanting: 'Fayoum says Ahmed Shafiq is feloul,' an Arabic word used to refer to remnants of the Mubarak era.
Shafiq has taken a tough stance on law and order, appealing to many Egyptians tired of political chaos and insecurity that have damaged the economy and worsened poverty. Critics say he also has the backing of the powerful army.
Leftist Hamdeen Sabahy, who failed to progress to the election run-off, joined thousands of protesters in Tahrir late on Saturday. The Brotherhood's Mursi also toured the square.
Mursi, who has been struggling to rally the support of candidates defeated in the first-round, met with Sabahy and another defeated candidate, Islamist Abdel Moneim Abol Fotouh, on Saturday night for a closed-door meeting, according to people who attended the gathering.
Sabahy and Abol Fotouh, who was ejected from the Brotherhood last year and has campaigned on a more moderate political platform, came third and fourth in the May 23 and 24 vote and have refused to throw their weight behind Mursi.
'The situation now is deadlocked but one scenario would be to stop the second round from happening,' said a political activist who witnessed the meeting.
'We plan to call for marches on Monday, Wednesday and a big million-man march on Friday,' the activist said.
Poverty, police brutality and anger at corruption drove the 18-day revolt that unseated Mubarak.
Around 850 people were killed as the security forces tried to re-assert control over the country of 82 million people.
When the fallen leader was first wheeled into a courtroom on a hospital trolley last year, it sent shockwaves through the Arab world, where autocrats have long held sway.
The defendants denied charges that ranged from the killing of the protesters to corruption and abuse of power.
State television said Mubarak suffered a 'health crisis' after the verdict when he was flown to Cairo's Tora prison, where he was admitted to a hospital facility. He had been held at a luxurious military-run hospital during the 10-month trial.
Former Interior Minister Habib al-Adli was also given life in prison. Mubarak's sons Alaa and Gamal had corruption charges quashed, but stay in jail over another case.
The judge acquitted the other senior security officials for lack of evidence, a decision that worried lawyers for victims' families who said that could help Mubarak win any appeal.
'If my son had been killed and I heard this ruling, I would want to go out and avenge him,' said lawyer Sayed Nosseir, who was protesting in Tahrir. – Reuters