Stalwarts of ousted Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak were acquitted Wednesday of organising a notorious camel-borne assault on protesters during last year’s uprising, the state MENA news agency said.
The court found all 24 defendants not guilty, including the then speakers of Egypt’s two houses of parliament, Fathi Srur and Safwat al-Sherif, the news agency reported.
Human rights activists expressed disbelief at the court’s decision on the the charges of incitement to murder which were referred to prosecutors at the recommendation of investigators in July last year.
The infamous “battle of the camel,” which took place on one of the most violent days of last year’s revolt, was seen as pivotal in drawing more crowds to join the anti-regime rallies.
On February 2, 2011, protesters gathered in Cairo’s Tahrir Square and Mubarak supporters charged through the crowds on horses and camels, creating mayhem that quickly degenerated into violent clashes.
Sherif, who was also secretary general of Mubarak’s now disbanded National Democratic Party, stood accused by prosecutors of having “contacted MPs, members of the NDP and financiers of the party, inciting them to disperse the protests in (Cairo’s) Tahrir Square by force and violence.”
He urged them to “kill the protesters if they had to,” prosecutors charged.
But the court found him and the other defendants not guilty on all charges.
The accused also included then labour minister Aisha Abdel Hadi and businessman and NDP official Mohammed Abul Einen. There were originally 25 defendants but one died during the trial.
“The revolution has not been defeated but it has been stabbed in the back,” said Arab Network for Human Rights Information chief Gamal Eid reacting to the verdict.
Mubarak was eventually ousted on February 11 after nearly three weeks of mass protests that left 846 people dead and more than 6,000 injured.
Both the interim military government that took over on his overthrow and the administration of elected Islamist President Mohamed Morsi have repeatedly promised to bring to justice all those responsible for the deaths.
Mubarak and his interior minister Habib al-Adly were both jailed for life for their role in ordering the killings but to the fury of activists six top security chiefs who stood trial with them were acquitted.