Former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak in his jail cell..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
CAIRO - Egypt's top appeals court found Hosni Mubarak innocent on Thursday of involvement in the killing of protesters during the 2011 uprising that ended his 30-year rule, in a final ruling that could see the former president walk free.
After an all-day hearing, Judge Ahmed Abdel Qawi announced: "The court has found the defendant innocent."
The court also rejected demands by lawyers of the victims to reopen civil suits, leaving no remaining option for appeal or retrial.
Mubarak, 88, was originally sentenced to life in prison in 2012 for conspiring to murder 239 demonstrators, sowing chaos and creating a security vacuum during an 18-day revolt which began in January 2011.
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Hundreds of people died when security forces clashed with protesters in the weeks before Mubarak was forced from power.
Many Egyptians who lived through Mubarak's rule view it as a period of autocracy and crony capitalism. His overthrow led to Egypt's first free election, which brought in Islamist President Mohamed Morsi.
Mursi only lasted a year in office, however, after mass protests against his rule in 2013 prompted an overthrow by then army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who later went on to win a presidential election in 2014.
Sisi has since launched a crackdown on Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood, which has been banned as a terrorist organization.
Hundreds of Morsi supporters were killed in a single day and thousands have been jailed with the dragnet quickly widening to include secular activists who were at the forefront of the 2011 uprising but opposed Muslim Brotherhood rule.
By contrast, Mubarak-era figures are gradually being cleared of charges and a series of laws limiting political freedoms has raised fears among activists that the old regime is back.
Lawyers representing the families of those killed in the 2011 uprising called for the charges against Mubarak to be upgraded to murder and demanded that the court also summon Sisi, who was head of military intelligence at the time.