Cairo – A Cairo court on Wednesday convicted ousted Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak of embezzlement, sentencing him to three years in prison.
The graft case against the 86-year-old Mubarak, who is kept in custody at a military hospital, is one of two against the former president, who was ousted in a popular uprising in 2011 after nearly three decades in power. He is being retried over the killings of hundreds of protesters during the uprising.
Mubarak’s two sons, one-time heir apparent Gamal and wealthy businessman Alaa, were also convicted Wednesday of graft and sentenced to four years in prison each in the same case.
In a separate trial, a court in the Nile Delta city of Mansoura on Wednesday convicted 155 people prosecutors say are members of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, of violence-related charges, to jail sentences of up to 25 years. Seventy-nine of the defendants are fugitives and were tried in absentia.
The three Mubaraks were convicted of charges that they embezzled millions of dollars’ worth of state funds over a decade toward the end of Hosni Mubarak’s rule. The funds were meant for renovating and maintaining presidential palaces but were instead spent on upgrading the family’s private residences.
Hosni Mubarak “had a duty to restrain himself and his sons from stealing state funds … but instead, he gave himself and his sons license to embezzle public funds, helping themselves without oversight or consideration. Hence, they deserve to be punished,” Judge Osama Shaheen said as he handed down the verdict in the hearing carried live by state TV.
Mubarak and his two sons showed no emotion as the verdict was read. The ousted president waved to supporters present at the courtroom before the verdict was announced.
Protecting state funds is not a “novelty” and should not have been an “unbearable burden” for the former president, since he had taken an oath to respect the constitution and the law, said Shaheen.
The three Mubaraks were also fined 21.1 million Egyptian pounds ($2.9 million) and ordered to reimburse 125 million pounds ($17.6 million) to the state treasury. They have the right to appeal their conviction before a higher court.
The Mubaraks had returned around 120 million pounds to the state in connection with this case in the hope that the charges would be dropped, but the proceedings against them continued anyway.
Four other defendants in the case were acquitted.
Mubarak, who turned 86 this month, attended Wednesday’s hearing in a suit and tie. His two sons wore white prison uniforms.
They have all been held in custody since 2011, but only the time that is connected with this case — about a year since the embezzlement charges were raised — will be deducted from the sentences.
Under Egyptian law, maximum sentences for embezzlement vary depending on the nature of the crime, but 15 years’ imprisonment is not uncommon.
Mubarak was found guilty in June 2012 of failing to stop the killing of more than 900 protesters during the 18-day revolt against his rule and sentenced to life imprisonment.
His conviction was overturned in January 2013. That decision was appealed by prosecutors, and a retrial began in April 2013. He was ordered released in August last year pending his graft trial, but was kept at a military hospital in a suburb south of Cairo. Given his poor health, Mubarak is likely to serve his sentence in the hospital.
Mubarak’s sons are also being retried on separate graft charges.
In the Mansoura trial, 54 of the defendants were sentenced to life in prison, 32 to 10 years and 13 to seven. The remainder of the defendants was sentenced to prison terms ranging between one and three years.
It was the latest mass trial in the ongoing crackdown against the Brotherhood, the Islamist group from which the ousted President Mohammed Morsi hails. Morsi, Egypt’s first freely elected president, was ousted by the military last July.
In the 10 months since his ouster, authorities have detained at least 16,000 of his supporters and killed hundreds. One of the recent mass trials saw the judge sentencing more than 600 of the ousted leader’s supporters to death, a ruling that was widely condemned by rights groups.
In Cairo, a student of an Islamic university was convicted and sentenced to five years’ imprisonment for flying the black banner associated with al-Qaida while protesting on campus. Eight other students were tried in absentia and received a similar sentence for membership of a terrorist group — the Brotherhood — and demonstrating without a permit.