It was the second verdict against an Arab ruler brought before the law by a popular revolt, after the conviction in absentia last year of Tunisia’s Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, and for many Egyptians it may be the greatest achievement so far of the uprising that began 16 months ago. With the nation still awaiting the ratification of a new constitution, the election of a new president and the hand-over of power by its military rulers, the decision is Egypt’s most significant step yet toward establishing the principle that no leader is above the law. Yet lawyers critical of Mr. Mubarak immediately warned that the verdict may not survive an appeal. The judge acquitted several lower-ranking security officials of responsibility for the same deaths, raising questions about the chain of command. He also dismissed corruption charges against Mr. Mubarak and his sons on technical grounds, and by early afternoon protesters angry at the flimsiness of the decision were pouring into Tahrir Square, the symbolic heart of the revolt. Egyptian state television reported that within hours of the decision, Mr. Mubarak, 84, had suffered a "health crisis" as he was being flown by helicopter to a Cairo prison from the military hospital where he had awaited the verdict. He was being treated inside the helicopter which he refused to leave, the state network reported.It's unlikely that Mubarak will ever set forth from a hospital or prison as a free man, though Mubarak's lawyers could have a good case considering the very low evidenciary standard used. Mubarak was sentenced to life as an accessory to murder in the killing of more than 240 protesters at the end of January 2011. At the same time, the judge acknowledged that prosecutors had no evidence showing that Mubarak or his top aides had directly ordered the killing of protesters.
Instead, the judge held Mr. Mubarak responsible for failing to stop the killing — an unusually low standard of proof for a murder conviction under either Egyptian or international law.Despite the troubles with the case, it's an important step forward for Egyptians considering the decades of governance without regard to human rights and personal and political freedoms.