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Outside courtroom, Egyptians react to suprise Mubarak, El-Adly verdicts

Final verdicts slapping Mubarak, El-Adly with 10-yr jail sentences and exonerating the remaining defendants drew opposite reactions from pro- and anti-Mubarak protesters outside the courtroom on Saturday

Yasmine Wali, outside of the police academy, Saturday 2 Jun 2012
Riot police clash with anti-Mubarak protesters after a court sentenced deposed president Hosni Mubarak to life in prison, outside the police academy where the court is located in Cairo June 2, 2012. (Photo: AP)
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On Saturday, dozens of Egyptians flocked to the police academy in New Cairo on the outskirts of the capital to hear the final verdict against ousted president Hosni Mubarak, his long-time interior minister Habib El-Adly, and six of the latter's aides.

Security was tight. Areas were designated for Mubarak sympathisers at a minimum of 500 meters away from anti-Mubarak protesters to avoid clashes.

Several ambulances and portable clinics were parked in the vicinity.

Since early morning, stone-faced soldiers had been lined up behind a fence facing the anti-Mubarak group. Behind them, several tanks were deployed.

Mubarak supporters were far fewer in number – about 20 – than the anti-Mubarak group, which numbered in the hundreds.

Anti-Mubarak protesters held Egyptian flags and images of slain protesters aloft, with many chanting and several beating drums.

International media, meanwhile, was everywhere.

The main contingent of protesters numbered in the dozens. They faced security forces, chanting: "Down, down with military rule!" and "Mubarak didn’t have mercy on my son, why should I have mercy on him?"

Most protesters appeared to be of working class origins, including middle-aged men and women, a number of young men, some veiled women and a handful of elderly men, including one sheikh from Al-Azhar.

Several were lying on the ground due to the heat, holding images of slain protesters in silence."Those responsible for killing my son should be killed," said one.

Abdel-Kareem, 27, the brother of a protester killed at the height of last year's uprising, said: "I expect Mubarak will be slapped with a ten-year jail sentence at most; and when Ahmed Shafiq becomes president, he'll release him. We all know that the SCAF [Egypt's ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces] has stolen the revolution and won't bring any justice."

A few steps away from Abdel-Kareem stood Shadia, a 33-year-old woman who wears the Niqab and who lost an eye during last year's revolution. They called out for retribution, along with many other families of slain protesters.

Most protesters expressed the belief that the court verdict would be postponed because Presiding Judge Ahmed Refaat was considered an ally of Mubarak and the SCAF. "What can we do? We can only hope, pray and come here and witness the verdict," said one.

Aside from the main protest, a gaggle of teenage boys began chanting and playing music with drums. "Revolution from the start, until you wear the red prison suit and die," they chanted.

Mubarak supporters, meanwhile, stood close to the academy entrance surrounded by security forces.

Nora, a veiled 30-year-old Mubarak supporter, looked extremely upset. Next to her, Amany, 16, recites words from the Quran, imploring God to help Mubarak.

"It was external forces, like the April 6 youth movement, that destroyed Egypt," she said. "We didn’t have one day of insecurity before the revolution happened. We love our president, that's why we came."

Mustafa Fawaz, a farmer, said of the deposed president: "He's an 85-year-old man; we should have mercy on him. For the past ten years we've been hearing that he's almost dead. How can we send him to trial now?"

When Judge Refaat read the verdict aloud, Mubarak supporters tensed up. Fearing clashes, they called each other from the streets to enter their designated secure areas.

The anti-Mubarak group was much more relaxed. They prepared tea and sold sandwiches as people gathered to hear the verdict. Some raised their hands to the sky, praying to God. Others lined up in the street to hear the verdict from a police car.

When the judge finally announced Mubarak's verdict, protesters and the families of slain protesters outside the courtroom shouted "God is great!" and "The martyrs' blood wasn't spilt in vain." Men and women prostrated themselves on the ground, thanking God for the verdict. They hugged each other with tears in their eyes.

"This is Egypt; this is Egypt’s judiciary system," they shouted, some dancing with joy.

But the situation quickly turned ugly when verdicts were read for Mubarak's two sons, Gamal and Alaa, and El-Adly's six assistants, all of whom were acquitted.

Violence soon erupted, with the families of slain protesters clashing with Central Security Forces personnel. Soon protesters began chanting for the purge of Egypt's judiciary, while Mubarak supporters began hastily departing the scene.

Protesters formed human shields to absorb the anger of slain protesters' families and keep them away from security forces. Police officers, for their part, appeared furious, but refrained from answering the accusations being hurled at them by anti-Mubarak demonstrators.  

Security forces formed five lines to halt traffic. Dozens of protesters lied down to face them, chanting, "Down, down with military rule!" as they were joined by yet more protesters.

Ambulances quickly drove over to tend to the injured. A woman and a man both fainted while walking on the street.

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