Longtime President Hosni Mubarak’s last prime minister has been acquitted in two corruption cases, clearing the slate of charges against him and paving the way for his return to politics.
Ahmed Shafiq has been tried in five criminal cases since last summer’s presidential election, which he lost to Mohamed Morsi, the country’s first democratically-elected president.
In the first of two rulings on Thursday, a court dismissed profiteering charges against Shafiq in connection with a 1993 land sale. The property was owned by an association of air force officers. Shafiq was accused of using his position as the group’s director to sell the land at below-market prices to Gamal and Alaa Mubarak, the president’s sons, who were also found not guilty of corruption.
Defence lawyers insisted that the sale was made before Shafiq became the association’s president.
Later on Thursday, judges tossed out a separate case against Shafiq and other air force officers involving the sale of villas on Egypt’s north coast.
Shafiq was tried in absentia, having left Egypt for the United Arab Emirates shortly after his failed presidential bid.
“The verdict shows that the cases were not only weak, but politically motivated,” said his spokesman, Ahmad Sarhan.
Plans to return
Sarhan said Shafiq would return to Egypt “very soon” and focus on his new political party, the Egyptian National Movement, which plans to field candidates in parliamentary elections scheduled for next year.
The former air force commander and prime minister has also been mentioned as a possible candidate in next year's presidential ballot, though it is unclear whether he has much popular support, or the backing of the army leadership that ousted Morsi in a coup this summer.
Gamal and Alaa Mubarak still face several other outstanding corruption charges. The brothers have been in custody since April 2011.
Earlier on Thursday, police raided the offices of the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights. A group of lawyers and researchers were detained for nearly ten hours; one of them, Mohamed Adel, a leading member of the April 6 political movement, remains in custody. [link to other story here]
Thousands of people have been killed and jailed since the coup, most of them supporters of Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood. The crackdown has recently widened to include liberal activists and other critics of the interim government.