Transparency International has criticised an Egyptian court's decision to acquit toppled president Hosni Mubarak of corruption charges, describing the ruling as a "serious setback."
"The acquittal of Mubarak and his sons of corruption charges sends a message that leaders can get away with decades of running a country while coffers are stripped bare," said Transparency International's head Jose Ugaz.
The court acquitted Mubarak on Saturday of collaborating with his petroleum minister to profit from billionaire mogul Hussein Salem's company by giving Salem the rights to export Egyptian natural gas to Israel at below market rates.
Salem was also acquitted of the charges.
In addition, the judge ruled that the statute of limitations had expired on the charges against Mubarak, his two sons, Galal and Alaa, and Salem on charges of profiteering from illegal gifts of villas.
"Mubarak must be held accountable for his abuse of power over the past three decades or else Egypt risks recreating the corrupt conditions of impunity that existed before the Arab Spring," the global anti-corruption organisation said in a statement.
It added that Article 30 of the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) obligates states to "take into account the gravity of offences" committed by corrupt officials.
Egypt's general-prosecutor is expected to appeal the verdict.
Though hailed by Mubarak's supporters, Saturday's verdict sparked anger, with thousands protesting in Tahrir Square late in the evening, the site of an 18-day demonstration in 2011 that ended the dictator's 30-year rule.
Several political parties and groups also criticised the verdict, saying Egypt lacks sufficient laws to hold corrupt officials accountable.
In 2013 and 2012, Egypt scored a 32 on Transparency International's corruption scale, placing it 114 out of 177 countries.