CAIRO – Former President Hosni Mubarak got a life sentence Saturday for failing to stop the killing of protesters during Egypt’s uprising. But he and his sons were cleared of corruption charges, setting off protests for greater accountability for 30 years of abuses under the old regime.
By nightfall, a large crowd of up to 10,000 was back in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, the birthplace of the uprising, to vent anger over the acquittals. Similar protests went on in the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria and Suez on the Red Sea.
“Justice was not served,” said Ramadan Ahmed, whose son was killed on Jan. 28, the bloodiest day of last year’s uprising. “This is a sham,” he said outside the courthouse.
Protesters chanted: “A farce, a farce, this trial is a farce” and “The people want execution of the murderer.”
The case against Mubarak, his sons and top aides was limited in scope, focusing only on the uprising’s first few days and two narrow corruption cases. It was never going to provide a full accountability of wrongdoing under Mubarak’s three decades of authoritarian rule enforced by a brutal police force and a coterie of businessmen linked to the regime who amassed wealth while nearly half of Egypt’s estimated 85 million people lived in poverty.
Mubarak, 84, and his ex-security chief Habib el-Adly were both convicted of complicity in the killings of some 900 protesters and received life sentences. Six top police commanders were acquitted of the same charge with chief Judge Ahmed Rifaat saying there was a lack of concrete evidence.
That absolved the only other representatives of Mubarak’s hated security forces aside from el-Adly. It was a stark reminder that though the head has been removed, the body of the reviled security apparatus is largely untouched by genuine reform or purges since Mubarak was ousted 15 months ago.
Many of the senior security officials in charge during the uprising and the Mubarak regime continue to go to work every day at their old jobs.
In many ways, the old system remains in place. The clearest example of that is a key regime figure – Mubarak’s longtime friend and last prime minister, Ahmed Shafiq – is one of two candidates going to the presidential runoff set for June 16-17. On Saturday, Shafiq’s campaign headquarters in the cities of Fayyoum and Hurghada were attacked and damaged.
The generals who took over from Mubarak have not shown a will for vigorously prosecuting the old regime. That is something that neither Shafiq nor challenger Mohammed Morsi may have the political will or muscle to change when one is elected president.
Shafiq last week declared himself an admirer of the uprising, calling it a “religious revolution,” and pledged there would be no turning back of the clock while he is at the helm. On Saturday, he said the verdict showed that no one was above the law in today’s Egypt.
Morsi, of the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood, quickly tried to capitalize on the anger over the acquittals, vowing in a news conference that, if elected, he would retry Mubarak along with former regime officials suspected of involvement in killing protesters.
“Egypt and its revolutionary sons will continue their revolution. This revolution will not stop,” he said.