It was the first time a deposed Arab leader had faced an ordinary court in person since a wave of uprisings shook the Arab world last year, sweeping away four entrenched rulers.
The ruling came at a politically fraught time for Egypt, two weeks before a run-off in its first free presidential election that will pit the Muslim Brotherhood, which was banned under Mubarak, against the deposed autocrat’s last prime minister.
Mubarak, propped up on a hospital stretcher and wearing dark sunglasses, heard the verdict with a stony expression. He had been wheeled into the cage used in Egyptian courtrooms, while the other defendants stood.
Demonstrators outside the court, many of whom had been demanding the death penalty for Mubarak, greeted the verdict with fireworks and cries of “Allahu akbar (God is great)”.
Soha Saeed, the wife of one of about 850 people killed in the street revolt that toppled Mubarak on February 11, last year shouted: “I’m so happy. I’m so happy.”
Some people inside the court who had wanted a death sentence scuffled with guards, decrying the Mubarak-era judiciary. “The people want the judiciary cleansed!” they chanted.
One man held up a sign calling for Mubarak to be executed, others chanted for a death sentence.
Judge Ahmed Refaat opened the proceedings by calling the start of Mubarak’s trial on August 3 a “historic day”. He hailed Egyptians for removing the only leader many of them had known.
“The people of Egypt woke on Tuesday, January 25, to a new dawn, hoping that they would be able to breathe fresh air … after 30 years of deep, deep, deep darkness,” he told the court.
Total silence fell over the courtroom in the moments before Refaat announced his verdict. The crowd outside then erupted in joy. Anti-Mubarak demonstrators and a smaller crowd of his supporters threw stones at each other and at police.
The judge also sentenced Mubarak’s former interior minister, Habib al-Adli, to life in prison. He sentenced Mubarak’s two sons Alaa and Gamal to time already served after convicting them on some corruption charges and acquitting them on others. Six security officials were acquitted. — Reuters