Once billed the ‘Case of the Century’, Egyptians say they are disillusioned by a string of exonerations from his regime
Cairo: “So what?” said Hossam Ahmad indifferently when he was alerted to a news flash on a cafe television screen announcing a final verdict clearing former president Hosni Mubarak of killing protesters in the uprising that forced him out of power more than six years.
“I didn’t know that the old man was still on trial,” Ahmad, a 34-year-old driver, added, before returning to smoke a shisha water pipe at the coffeehouse in eastern Cairo.
On Thursday, the Court of Cassation, Egypt’s top appeals tribunal, acquitted 88-year-old Mubarak of involvement in the killing of more than 800 people during 18-day mass protests in the 2011 revolt.
The verdict marked the end of a legal battle that was dubbed the “Case of the Century” when its hearings started in August 2011.
“Whether he is innocent or not, it no longer matters,” said Ahmad, who added that he had joined thousands of Egyptians in protests in Cairo’s iconic Tahrir Square in 2011, demanding Mubarak to leave.
“In those days, we demanded Mubarak to be hanged. We also called for freedom and social justice. But nothing has changed since his departure. At least his days were better than now when people find it hard to feed their children,” said the father of two.
In recent months, Egypt, which heavily relies on imports, has suffered from a shortage of staples, a situation blamed on a decline in the country’s foreign currency earnings.
Last November, the government floated the local pound and cut the fuel subsidy as part of painful economic reforms. The moves have triggered a spate of hikes in prices of most goods.
“There is nothing surprising about his [Mubarak’s] acquittal, after all members of his corrupt regime have been declared innocent,” another man at the cafe said.
“It is the latest episode in the festival of innocence for all. The demonstrators must have committed suicide!” he added sarcastically, giving only his first name as Sharif, citing security concerns.
“Thus, Mubarak and his entourage are out of prison, but the revolutionaries are in jail. How fair!” the man in his thirties, said.
Over the past three years, prominent activists, who led the anti-Mubarak revolt, have been arrested and handed down jail sentences on charges of holding unauthorised street protests.
Mubarak’s exoneration came more than a year after the Court of Cassation upheld a ruling clearing his interior minister Habib Al Adly and six ex-police chiefs of complicity in the protester killings.
In late 2014, a lower court dismissed criminal charges in the same case against Mubarak, a ruling that sparked violent protests in some parts of Egypt. In contrast, there has been no street backlash to his final acquittal.
The former president has already served a three-year term in prison after he was convicted for the embezzlement of state money allocated for renovation of the presidential palace when he was in power.
That conviction stripped Mubarak of his political rights, including holding public office and running in elections.
Mubarak has mostly stayed at a military hospital in the leafy Cairo quarter of Maadi since his resignation. He is being treated there for ageing-related diseases.
“We have wronged this man, who gave a lot of his life to this country and did not drag it into wars,” Mahmoud Saqr, a 81-year-old pensioner, said.
“Look how Egypt’s conditions have worsened since he left,” Saqr added.
Egypt has also seen a wave of deadly attacks by militants since the army’s 2013 overthrow of president Mohammad Mursi of the now-banned Muslim Brotherhood.
“God has prolonged his life so that he can see his innocence while he is still alive. Now he can rest after his name has been cleared. It is enough for him that Egyptians now admit they miss his days.”