Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has been sentenced to life in prison as a court handed down a mixed verdict on Saturday, including the acquittal of ex-police commanders. The verdict sparked scenes of protest inside and outside the courtroom, and Mubarak was later treated en route to a prison hospital, complaining he was suffering a "health crisis."
Mubarak was given a life sentence after being convicted of failing to bring a halt to the deaths of about 850 protesters during the 2011 revolution in Egypt. However, the drama continued following the announcement as state TV then announced that the former dictator had suffered a "health crisis" in the helicopter taking him to Tora prison in Cairo. Further details regarding the precise condition Mubarak is presently in have not yet been released.
The day was tense as the nation awaited the verdicts in great anticipation. However, even though former President Mubarak and former interior minister Habib al-Adly were given life sentences for the slaughter of protesters last year, six other ex-police commanders were acquitted of charges. Furthermore, Mubarak's sons, Alaa and Gamal, had corruption charges dropped against them on technical grounds.
The verdicts were greeted with an uproar in the courtroom and chants of "Void" and "Clean the Judiciary" were heard as tensions threatened to overspill into violence.
The Muslim Brotherhood immediately called the verdict a "farce" and demanded a retrial.
Mubarak's lawyers also were swift to confirm an appeal would be forthcoming, and numerous commentators suspect they could be successful. Yasser Bahr, a senior member of Mubarak's defense team told reporters, "We will appeal. The ruling is full of legal flaws from every angle."
Hossam Bahgat, a high profile lawyer and activist, was outside the courthouse with members of victims' families. He explained, according to The Times: "It's vindicating to Egyptians to see Mubarak and his interior minister sentenced to life, but the verdict raises more questions than answers.
"The court appears to have found no evidence that the killings were committed by policemen. It seems the court convicted Mubarak and Adly for failing to prevent the killings," he added. "It's 100 per cent certain that this will go to appeal and the court is very likely to order a retrial."
Indeed, the judge, Ahmed Rafaat, even acknowledged that prosecutors had not proven that Mubarak had directly ordered the killing of any protesters. Rather the judge stated that Mubarak was culpable simply for failing to stop the killings.
What is for certain; the manner in which top police commanders were acquitted leaves many questions unanswered surrounding the chain of command as the killings took place. This is something that has surely set alarm bells ringing for prosecuting lawyers, who must be fearful of how an appeal is likely to turn out, and if of course a retrial is ordered.
Meanwhile, the Egyptian nation is still anxiously waiting for the new constitution to be officially ratified, and can expect a new president to be installed in the near future as elections draw closer to a conclusion. Ahmed Shafik, the last prime minister from the Mubarak regime, will compete in a run-off against the Muslim Brotherhood candidate.