Egyptians celebrated outside a court that sentenced deposed President Hosni Mubarak to life in prison on Saturday for complicity in killing protesters, but people inside the court who had wanted a death sentence scuffled with security guards.
“The people want the judiciary cleansed” (of Mubarak-era officials), people in the court chanted, television images showed. One man held up a sign calling for Mubarak to be executed, others chanted for a death sentence.
Outside there were celebrations, with many chanting “God is greatest.” Soha Saeed, the wife of one of those killed in the uprising that toppled Mubarak on February 11, 2011, shouted: “I’m so happy. I’m so happy.”
After the guilty verdict he was transferred to Tora prison in Cairo where upon arrival he suffered a “health crisis” and needed treatment, according to State TV.
The ex-dictator, said to be too sick by his doctors for a jail cell, has been held in a luxury medical suite at a military hospital throughout the court proceedings.
The 84-year-old, who appeared in court on a hospital stretcher during the nine-month trial , showed no emotion in his caged dock when his life sentence was read out.
Around 850 demonstrators were killed, most shot to death, in Cairo and other major cities across the country in 18-days of nationwide protests.
Thousands of people took to the streets to demand Mubarak’s downfall during last year’s revolution.
Scuffles broke out in the Cairo courtroom after the verdict was announced.
Judge Ahmed Rifaat described Mubarak’s era as “30 years of darkness” which only ended when Egyptians rose up to demand change.
“The people of Egypt woke on Tuesday, January 25, to a new dawn, hoping that they would be able to breathe fresh air… after 30 years of deep, deep, deep darkness,” he told the court.
“They peacefully demanded democracy from rulers who held tight grip on power,” he said.
Outside, thousands of riot police surrounded the building to stop the masses gathered outside from getting too close.
Supporters and opponents of the former leader – the only autocrat toppled in the Arab Spring to be put in the dock – reacted to the verdict clashing with each other and police.
One man held up a sign calling for Mubarak to be executed, others waved Egyptian flags and chanted slogans demanding “retribution”.
Relatives of those killed during the uprising broke down in tears.
“He should be executed as he executed our sons,” said Mustafa Mursi, whose 18-year-old son was shot dead outside a police station.
Soha Saeed, whose husband was killed in one of the many street demonstrations that helped to depose Mubarak from power on February 11, 2011, was among those celebrating the verdict and shouted: “I’m so happy. I’m so happy.”
Sky’s Middle East correspondent Emma Hurd said: “There is massive relief that Hosni Mubarak, who was seen as responsible for the deaths of hundreds of protesters – seen as ordering those deaths by allowing his security forces to use live ammunition during the uprising – has been convicted because there were fears that he would escape justice.
“He ruled with repressive tactics, under corrupt rule for more than 30 years before he was ousted.
“The revolutionaries back in Tahrir Square will see this finally as some element of justice for what they went through.”
During the trial, the prosecution claimed the then president ordered the violent crackdown that led to the killing of 225 protesters in Cairo, Suez and Alexandria between January 25 and 31 last year.
Mubarak , blamed for widespread repression during his 30-year rule, denied any involvement in the deadly crackdown of security forces that also left 1,800 people wounded.
His fellow defendants, including his former interior minister Habib al Adly, in charge of the police who fired live ammunition at demonstrators, also proclaimed their innocence.
Adly was also given a life term for his involvement in the killings, while six former police commanders were acquitted.
Corruption charges were dropped against Mubarak and his sons – Alaa and Gamal – but the pair still face a separate trial on charges of insider trading.
Hussain Salem, an ex-army and intelligence officer, was also acquitted of corruption charges.
The verdicts come amid the nation’s first “free and fair” presidential elections and two weeks before the run-off between Mubarak’s former prime minister Ahmed Shafiq and the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohammed Mursi.
Egypt has been under military rule since Mubarak’s resignation in February last year.