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Egyptian Court Drops Charges Left Against Hosni Mubarak


In a Cairo courtroom today, charges were dropped against ousted President Hosni Mubarak in connection with the killing of protesters. The decision enraged the families of hundreds of people who were shot and killed during the uprising against his rule in 2011. Hundreds of people gathered to protest the ruling in Cairo's main square, and were dispersed by police who used tear gas and water cannons. The decision today, activists say, is the latest and starkest sign that the revolution they began in 2011 has been reversed. NPR's Leila Fadel has our story.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Speaking foreign language).

LEILA FADEL, BYLINE: One by one, a judge acquitted Mubarak's former security chief and then the man's deputies on murder charges. Then, he acquitted the dictator Mubarak and his two sons on two corruption charges. And, finally, the judge dismissed the charges against Mubarak over the killing of protesters during the uprising against him in 2011. He was wheeled into a cage in the court room on a gurney.


FADEL: The courtroom bursts into cheers. In 2012, Mubarak was convicted to life in prison for being complicit in the killing of hundreds of protesters during demonstrations against his rule. But it was overturned on appeal. And now, once he finishes serving three years on a separate corruption case, Mubarak will be a free man. He's 86 and ailing and is currently at a military hospital in suburban Cairo.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Speaking foreign language).

FADEL: At a cafe in central Cairo, people clapped intermittently as the court ruling was broadcast live on TV.

AHMED ALI: (Speaking foreign language).

FADEL: Ahmed Ali, the coffee shop owner, called the ruling excellent. There's no way Mubarak killed demonstrators, he says. He was a military man.

A. ALI: (Speaking foreign language).

FADEL: Others nodded in agreement, but Ahmed Mohsen, an engineer from nearby...

AHMED MOHSEN: (Speaking foreign language).

FADEL: It's not possible, he says, in disbelief. If they're innocent, then who killed all those people? The rule of Mubarak was seen by many as a time of repression and crony capitalism, and it led to mass protests in 2011. And during the 18-day uprising, police used lethal force to stop protests. More than 800 people were killed before Mubarak stepped down, and yet, virtually no one, from policemen to the president, has been held accountable for those deaths. Junaid Ali, a fish merchant, lost his son during a protest in 2011. We spoke to him by phone.

JUNAID ALI: (Speaking foreign language).

FADEL: This was a show trial, he says, and today was the last scene. The curtain came down on justice. Mubarak and his regime killed our sons and corrupted the state for 30 years. The acquittals come during a very different political climate in Egypt. The first freely elected president of Egypt following Mubarak, Mohammed Morsi, was ousted by the military and detained when he grew unpopular.

A military man was then elected as president. And since Morsi's ouster, human rights activists say thousands of people have been arrested and convicted on trumped up charges. Many prominent revolutionaries have been thrown in jail.

HASSAM BAHGAT: Right now everyone, of course, is feeling the defeat. A counterrevolution was able to gather its forces, wage a counterattack and won.

FADEL: That's Hossam Bahgat, founder and former head of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights. He says today's trial wasn't about evidence but about the return of the old order. The security agencies that propped up Mubarak's regime are back in power and none of them will be held accountable for wrongdoings. But, he says, court rulings can't change what happened less than four years ago.

BAHGAT: The regime is naive in believing that through court rulings, they can just completely rewrite that very recent and very vivid history.

FADEL: Bahgat says the court decision caused further disillusionment among young people, who thought they could change Egypt through protest and the justice system. Leila Fadel, NPR News, Cairo. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.