Jailan Zayan, AFP
Last updated: 4 June, 2012

Tahrir pressure builds after Mubarak verdicts

Egyptian activists who spearheaded the revolt that toppled Hosni Mubarak have called for mass demonstrations on Tuesday to protest against verdicts handed down in the former president’s murder trial.

Mubarak and his interior minister Habib al-Adly were sentenced to life in prison on Saturday, but six security chiefs were acquitted over the killings of demonstrators during last year’s uprising that left some 850 people dead.

The ruling sparked nationwide outrage, with protesters taking to the streets in fury that no one had been found directly guilty of killing the protesters.

The lack of police accountability under Mubarak was one of the main driving forces behind the uprising, and both activists and rights groups fear the acquittals will help sustain that culture of impunity.

The pro-democracy April 6 movement, the Coalition of Revolution Youth and the Maspero Youth Union among others called for a mass protest at the capital’s iconic Tahrir Square at 1500 GMT on Tuesday.

The runners-up in last month’s presidential election first round, leftist politician Hamdeen Sabbahi and moderate Islamist Abdel Moneim Abul Fotouh, will lead separate marches to the central square, they said in statements.

They came third and fourth respectively in the May 23-24 election that has narrowed to a run-off later this month between Ahmed Shafiq — Mubarak’s prime minister during the uprising — and the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohammed Mursi.

Pro-democracy movements have capitalised on Egyptian national anger, calling for a return to Tahrir to press for the goals of the revolution.

The powerful Muslim Brotherhood said in a statement that it would join the rallies.

The Islamist group’s participation “comes in response to popular demand,” it said, adding that protesters would call for the “retrial of the killers, the trial of Ahmed Shafiq and (ex-interior minister) Mahmud Wagdy and former intelligence and state security chiefs.”

Tuesday’s protest will be “part of a series of events to (allow) all Egyptians to express their desire to protect the revolution and achieve its goals,” the Brotherhood said.

On Sunday, the state prosecutor said he would appeal against the Mubarak trial sentences, but a judicial source told AFP the process could take weeks.

Mubarak’s defence team has also said it would challenge the ruling and told AFP it was confident of winning on appeal.

Five of the six acquitted security commanders were freed early on Monday.

But the head of the now-dissolved state security apparatus, Hassan Abdel Rahman, remains in custody pending investigation into another case in which he is accused of destroying state security documents.

Mubarak — the only autocrat toppled in the Arab Spring to be put in the dock — could have been sent to the gallows as demanded by the prosecution but was instead given a life term, angering many.

He was also cleared of graft charges.

Along with the acquitted police chiefs, Mubarak’s sons Alaa and Gamal had corruption charges against them dropped on a technicality, but they will remain in prison over another corruption case.

On Sunday, the ex-dictator was issued a regulation blue prison uniform and had his official mugshot taken at the Cairo Tora prison where he was given his prisoner number, state news agency MENA reported.

A tearful Mubarak, who enjoyed near absolute power for three decades, was flown by helicopter to the prison on Cairo’s outskirts after the verdict.

His wife Suzanne and two daughters-in-law Khadiga al-Gammal and Heidi Rasekh visited him on Monday and were allowed to take in food and drinks, an interior ministry official told AFP.

Saturday’s verdicts triggered nationwide outrage and international criticism.

Mubarak’s sentence “is a significant step towards combatting long-standing impunity in Egypt” but the security chiefs’ acquittal “leaves many still waiting for full justice,” Amnesty International said.

The verdicts come just two weeks before the presidential election run-off which is becoming highly polarised with many activists facing a difficult choice.

For them to choose a Mubarak-era figure would symbolise a return to the old regime and an end to the revolution, but voting for Mursi would mean handing Egypt to a movement they say has monopolised power since the uprising.

With less than two weeks to go before polling day, the boycott movement has picked up pace, endorsed by celebrities including actors Khaled el-Sawy and Amr Waked.

Protesters in Tahrir Square have proposed the establishment of a presidential council — an idea immediately dismissed by Shafiq and highly unlikely to be accepted by Mursi.

Abul Fotouh and Sabbahi met on Sunday to consolidate their position ahead of the June 16-17 run-off.

They also met Mursi on Monday and will issue a joint statement later in the day, they said.