Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak lies on a stretcher while being transported ahead of his trial in Cairo, Egypt, March 2, 2017. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany
Egypt's top appeals court found Hosni Mubarak innocent on Thursday of involvement in the killing of protesters during the 2011 uprising that ended his 30-year rule, the final ruling in a landmark case.
Mubarak was the first of the leaders toppled in a wave of Arab uprisings to face trial. In scenes that captivated Arabs, he appeared in a courtroom cage on charges ranging from corruption to complicity in the murder of protesters.
The case has traced the trajectory of Egypt's Arab Spring, with Mubarak originally sentenced to life in prison in 2012 for conspiring to murder 239 demonstrators during the 18-day revolt - an uprising that sowed chaos and created a security vacuum but also inspired hope for an era of democracy and social justice.
But an appeals court ordered a retrial that culminated in 2014 in the case against the aging former president and his senior officials being dropped. An appeal by the public prosecution led to Thursday's final retrial by the Court of Cassation.
After a hearing that consumed most of the day, Judge Ahmed Abdel Qawi announced to cheers of approval from the Mubarak supporters who filled the court room: "The court has found the defendant innocent."
The court also rejected demands by lawyers of the victims to reopen civil suits. That left no remaining option for appeal or retrial, according to a judicial source.
The families of those killed, who had attended the trial early on, were not present on Thursday. Their lawyers condemned the verdict as politically motivated.
"This ruling is not fair and not just. The judiciary is politicized," said Osman al-Hefnway, a lawyer for the families.
Instead, the courtroom was filled with Mubarak supporters who cheered "long live justice" as the verdict was read out and unfurled posters of their former leader.