- Associated Press - Saturday, June 2, 2012

CAIRO (AP) — Hosni Mubarak was sentenced to life in prison Saturday for failing to stop the killing of protesters during the uprising that forced him from power last year. The ousted president and his sons were acquitted of corruption in a mixed verdict that swiftly provoked a new wave of anger on Egypt’s streets.

By dusk, thousands filled Cairo’s central Tahrir Square, the heart of last year’s uprising, in a demonstration called by revolutionary groups and the powerful Muslim Brotherhood to vent anger over the acquittals.

After the sentencing, the 84-year old Mubarak suffered a “health crisis” on a helicopter flight to a Cairo prison hospital, according to security officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media. One state media report said it was a heart attack, but that could not immediately be confirmed.

The officials said Mubarak cried in protest and resisted leaving the helicopter that took him to a prison hospital for the first time since he was detained in April 2011. They said the former leader insisted he be flown to the military hospital on the outskirts of Cairo where he was held during the trial. Mubarak finally left the chopper and moved to the Torah prison hospital more than two hours after the helicopter landed there.

Earlier, Mubarak sat stone-faced and frowning in the courtroom’s metal defendants’ cage while judge Ahmed Rifaat read out the conviction and sentence against him, showing no emotion with his eyes concealed by dark sunglasses. His sons Gamal and Alaa looked nervous but also did not react to either the conviction of their father or their own acquittals.

Rifaat opened the session with an indictment of Mubarak’s regime that expressed deep sympathy for the uprising 15 months ago.

“The people released a collective sigh of relief after a nightmare that did not, as is customary, last for a night, but for almost 30 black, black, black years — darkness that resembled a winter night,” he said.

“They did not seek a luxurious life or to sit atop the world, but asked their politicians, rulers who sat on the throne of opulence, wealth and power to give them bread and clear water to satisfy their hunger and quench their thirst and to be in a home that shelters their families and the sons of the nation far from the rotten slums,” he said. “They were chanting ‘peaceful, peaceful’ with their mouths while their stomachs were empty and their strength was failing. … They screamed … ‘rescue us and pull us from the torture of poverty and humiliation.’”

One of the uprising’s key pro-democracy groups, April 6, rejected the verdict, saying Rifaat at once paid homage to the protesters and ignored the grief of the families of those killed by acquitting the top police commanders.

“We will continue to cleanse Egypt from corruption,” the group said.

Mubarak and his former Interior Minister Habib el-Adly, who was in charge of the police and other security forces at the time of the uprising, were convicted of failing to act to stop the killings during the opening days of the revolt, when the bulk of protesters died. El-Adly also received a life sentence.

Mubarak and his two sons were acquitted of corruption charges, along with a family friend who is on the run.

The charges related to killing protesters carried a possible death sentence that the judge chose not to impose, opting instead to send Mubarak to prison for the rest of his life.

But the case against Mubarak, his sons, ex-security chief and six of his top aides was very limited in scope, focusing only on the first few days of the uprising and one narrow corruption case.

It did not go a long way to satisfy demands of the uprising for a full accountability of wrongdoing under Mubarak’s three-decade rule when he enforced authoritarian rule with a loyal and brutal police force and a coterie of businessmen linked to the regime who amassed wealth while tens of millions lived in abject poverty.

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