Outside the Police Academy on Saturday, 10 minutes of elation gave way to feelings of anger as Hosni Mubarak and Habib al-Adly were sentenced to life imprisonment while the former president’s sons Gamal and Alaa, as well as six senior Interior Ministry officials were acquitted of all charges.
The day started with optimism from the Mubarak supporters gathered outside the academy in Cairo’s eastern desert outskirts. Anti-Mubarak protesters and the families of the martyrs killed in the revolution were less excited. They felt that Mubarak would somehow get away with his crimes.
“This man fought for us and sacrificed his life for us. He deserves that we do the same,” said Iyad al-Mohammedi, 18, who was confident Mubarak would be acquitted.
For Mohamed Abdel Galil, the best friend and neighbor of Bilal Sabet, who was killed on 28 January 2011 in Mansheya Square, the verdict was going to be skewed one way or another.
“After what we've seen from the transitional period and the farcical goings on, I think the trial will not appease us. We won't accept less than execution,” he said. “We're just sending a message that we're here no matter what. We made a revolution and we'll make another one to remove the roots of the regime. Regimes come and go, but the people stay.”
People crowded around vans in the large sun-baked parking lot, listening to stereos blaring Judge Ahmed Refaat’s long and flowery pronouncement of the verdict. When Refaat read out that Mubarak was sentenced to life, a huge roar erupted, reminiscent of celebrations on the night of his ouster on 11 February 2011.
Some chanted “God is Great” as others knelt to the ground in thanks. Young men began singing football songs and there was a jovial atmosphere. That quickly soured. As news came out that Gamal and Alaa Mubarak had been acquitted, along with Adly’s six aides, people became incensed. Clashes began with Central Security Forces standing guard.
The Mubarak supporters were also angry. They chased photographers and anyone who approached them. One irate man attacked a car. Eventually, the Mubarak supporters left, being heavily outnumbered by the anti-Mubarak protesters on the other side.
Those who stayed from the other side were disconsolate. It was only a matter of time before clashes erupted again with security forces, leading to a chase through a new-fangled construction site across the road. Families of the martyrs were speechless and in tears as news filtered out that Mubarak and Adly had been sentenced for failing to prevent the killings, not for ordering them.
Some were more philosophical, though.
“It is a first step forward. This is the best we could do. The next step will be stronger,” said Samir Saadoun, whose son Ibrahim was killed 28 January 2011 in Matareya Square. “You're living with killers, vampires. We're not as strong, but we'll keep trying until we get what we want. I am not totally pleased with the verdict but this is a start. Gamal and Alaa cannot get away with this.”