Mubarak Convicted of Embezzlement

A Cairo court sentenced former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to three years in prison for embezzlement. His sons Ala'a and Gamal were given four-year sentences. The sentences can be appealed by Mubarak, who has already been in detention for three years on various charges.

The ousted leader appeared calm as the judge read out his sentence in the case known in the Egyptian press as the "presidential palace trial."

Mubarak and his sons were accused of diverting more than $17 million meant for maintenance of presidential palaces to renovate their private residences.

His conviction for fraud could be overturned on appeal.

In 2012, Mubarak was given a life sentence for killing protesters during the 2011 revolution that forced him from power, but that conviction was overturned. The case, however, is being retried.

The former president was flown back to a military hospital after his sentence was read out. It was not immediately clear if he will be returned to the Tora Prison, where he was jailed before his conviction for killing protesters was overturned.

The sentences, however, mean that Mubarak and his sons will have to wear the blue prison garb, standard in Egypt for those convicted of a crime. Defendants who have not been convicted are allowed to wear white.

Some analysts, like political sociologist Said Sadek, think that the Egyptian judiciary did not want to appear soft on Mubarak, especially after it handed down harsh sentences against Muslim Brotherhood members in recent months.

"This is a revocable verdict, so this is not final," Sadek noted, "but it would serve the idea that the Egyptian judicial system does not discriminate and is not only targeting the Muslim Brotherhood, but it also takes care of the Mubarak-era people and even the Mubaraks. This is only this count and [Mubarak] is facing several other cases, so it is not the end of his nightmare."

Sadek believes that the Egyptian judiciary is following a similar strategy to that used in Chile, after the rule of former dictator Augusto Pinochet came to a end. Pinochet was accused of killing scores of political opponents after overthrowing President Salvador Allende in 1971, and Chileans sought closure to a painful national nightmare.

"In Chile, all they wanted was historic convictions by the court against Pinochet so that they feel better, and it didn't happen and I think Egyptians copied that but adapted it to the Egyptian case," Sadek said, "so you can get a conviction, but the conviction can be overturned and you drag the trial for a long period of time until the defendant dies and the whole issue is closed."

Former President Mubarak marked his 86th birthday last week and his supporters brought a cake to his hospital room. The former leader has also given a number of interviews in the Egyptian press in recent weeks and his various health issues have been the subject of headlines.

VOA News / May 22, 2014 08:09 KST