CAIRO: “Serious shortcomings” in the judicial process in the Saturday acquittal of corruption charges against former President Hosni Mubarak were condemned by Transparency International Saturday, which said the court decision was a “setback” in the fight against the abuse of power.
Mubarak, his sons Gamal and Alaa, former Minister of Petroleum Sameh Fahmy and business tycoon Hussein Salem were acquitted of bribery and exporting Egypt’s natural gas to Israel at below market prices for personal gain.
“This is a reversal of one of the most important outcomes of the Arab Spring: leaders being held to account for betraying the trust of their citizens,” said Transparency International Chairman Jose Ugaz. He added the ruling “sends a message that leaders can get away with decades of running a country while coffers are stripped bare.”
The murder charges against the long-time president and his police chiefs, known for their brutality before the revolution, were dropped due to a lack of evidence, according to the court trying the case. The defendants were accused by the prosecution of being complicit in the killing of hundreds of protesters during the January 25 Revolution in 2011.
The Egyptian judiciary was perceived as corrupt by 65 percent of respondents in Transparency International’s 2013 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI). Of 177 countries—with 1 being the least corrupt and 177 being the most corrupt—Egypt ranked 114th in 2013, dropping from its 98 spot in 2010.
However, Transparency International did express its support of the prosecution’s effort to appeal the verdict, saying that otherwise Egypt may “recreate” a culture of corruption and impunity.
For its part, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) said Saturday the verdict “entrenches impunity for gross human rights violations,” questioned the legal procedures of both the court and the prosecution and compared it to verdicts and indictments against many protesters over “flimsy evidence.”
“These acquittals expose deep flaws in the Egyptian Code of Criminal Procedures entrusting evidence-gathering to police even in cases of alleged police abuse, allowing them to tamper with the evidence or withhold it to escape accountability,” EIPR said.
During the announcement of the Mubarak verdict, Judge Mahmoud al-Rashidy called for legislative amendments to the Penal Code to provide jurisdiction over all forms of bribery. The judge also condemned Mubarak’s regime in harsh terms, but said the evidence was not sufficient to convict the former autocrat of the charges.