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Analysts and opponents to the verdict say a primary concern is that the decision may convince officials - especially those in the security sector - that they can get away with killing protesters.

“The problem is that when the future director of security sees that the past director of security isn’t imprisoned, he will make decisions that are bad for the revolution,” said Amr Ali, a researcher and photographer who lives near the Giza pyramids and protested Saturday in Tahrir Square.

Legal experts, however, say the trial is far from over, and the defendants will appeal.

Hossam Bahgat, director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, said that when the case goes to retrial, his group will work to ensure all state agents submit more evidence to strengthen the case against the accused.

“We will make sure this is not the final word,” Mr. Bahgat said.

Lost in transition

The verdict comes at a critical moment during a rocky transition, as Egyptians prepare to elect their nation’s new leader and embark on what many hope will be a road to real democracy.

Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohammed Morsi will compete against Mubarak’s last prime minister, Ahmed Shafiq, in a June 16-17 run-off vote.

It is proving to be a highly polarized race and is shocking some voters who never expected a former regime figure to be in the runoff election.

Many Egyptians crave stability and order that has been lacking during the transition. But Saturday’s verdict is proving further disruptive in a country plagued by a weakened economy resulting in part from continued unrest. Analysts predict the protests will continue over the next several days.

“We don’t have freedom as of now and the revolution began a year and a half ago,” said Sayyed Abdel Rahman, 21, protesting in Tahrir. “The police can come and kick anyone in the street and not end up in prison.”

Some said the sentences for Mubarak and al-Adly were undeserved.

A tiny group of pro-Mubarak demonstrators carrying posters of the deposed dictator outside the police academy screamed and cried in agony when the verdict was announced. Some expressed pity for his age and poor health. One woman held a poster that read, “I love Mubarak.”

Others were not nearly as forgiving.

“We can’t believe Mubarak’s companions are out now - that the killers are out,” one protester said of the acquittals of the six security officials.