Egypt: A court rules on Mubarak’s crimes

A judge sentenced Hosni Mubarak to life in prison.

At first, the people cheered, said Lina El-Wardani in Al-Ahram (Egypt). After Judge Ahmed Refaat described Hosni Mubarak’s rule as “30 years of black, pitch-black hopelessness,” and read out the sentence of life in prison, the courtroom erupted into chants of “God is great!” Across the nation, Egyptians rejoiced that Mubarak would be punished for ordering the slaughter of hundreds of peaceful protesters during last year’s democratic uprising. But then came the blow. Top police chiefs were acquitted, and Mubarak and his sons were found not guilty of corruption charges. As the judges departed the courtroom, lawyers began to shout, “The people want an independent judiciary!” and “Down with the regime!”

Egyptians’ mixed emotions are understandable, said The National (United Arab Emirates) in an editorial. But once the verdict has sunk in, they should realize that they have cause to celebrate a great achievement. Egypt is the first Arab country to sentence its former leader to life imprisonment for crimes against his own people. The image of Mubarak sitting quietly in court, listening to a legal judgment, is a stark contrast to “the grainy footage of Iraq’s Saddam Hussein being dragged to the gallows” or Libya’s Muammar al-Qaddafi “being battered to death by his enemies.” The transition from autocracy to democracy may be tough, but Egypt is showing the way.

This judgment should spur our country to move on, said Ziad Sahar in Al Jumhuriyah (Egypt). Instead, politicians are using it as an excuse to keep a sense of general outrage alive. Two of the candidates who failed to qualify for next week’s presidential runoff are among those calling for demonstrations in Tahrir Square and urging the people “to reject the rulings of fair justice.” And the Muslim Brotherhood is no less cynical, said Mamdouh Hamza in Al-Akhbar (Egypt). Its participation in street protests and marches is “being organized as part of its candidate Mohammed Mursi’s presidential campaign.” The Brotherhood cares nothing about achieving justice for the martyrs of the revolution or rescuing the revolution’s democratic aims.

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The Mubarak verdict could affect the runoff between Mursi and former regime figure Ahmed Shafiq, said Nada El-Kouny in Al-Ahram. Many outraged Egyptians say they’ll join leftists and secularists in boycotting the vote. Low turnout would give Mursi an edge, since the Muslim Brotherhood is so well organized. But if the protests over the verdict turn violent in the coming days, Shafiq could benefit as the law-and-order candidate. All eyes are “once again on Tahrir Square.”

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