Thousands of protesters have returned to Cairo’s Tahrir Square and elsewhere, on a day when Egypt’s general prosecutor said his office would appeal against the acquittals of several police commanders who served under Hosni Mubarak, state media has said.
Mubarak, the former president who was removed by a popular uprising last year, and his former interior minister were sentenced to life in prison for failing to stop the killing of more than 800 people during a police crackdown on the protests.
Six police commanders who served under them, however, were acquitted of charges of being responsible for the killings, and five were due to be released on Sunday, state media reported. The sixth, Hassan Abdel Rahman, who was the head of the now-defunct state security apparatus, is being held pending investigation of a different case.
Al Jazeera’s Mike Hanna, reporting from Cairo, confirmed that travel bans on the six officials, in place since the trial first began last February, have been renewed.
Gamal and Alaa, Mubarak’s sons, were also acquitted on corruption charges, as was Mubarak himself.
On Sunday, the former Egyptian leader received his blue prison uniform and prisoner number at Tora prison, where he is now incarcerated. Prison authorities have denied his sons’ request to be shifted to the same facility as their father.
The verdicts sparked protests across the country, with several thousand angry demonstrators gathering in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, Alexandria, Suez and other cities on Saturday.
Al Jazeera’s Hanna reported that the protest in Cairo’s Tahrir was not as large as the one seen on Saturday night.
Rallies were also held in Suez and Alexandria on Sunday. Al Jazeera’s Jamal Elshayyal, reporting from Alexandria, said that protesters there had lit fires outside the military headquarters and the situation was “tense”.
Sherine Tadros, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Cairo, pointed out that while thousands had turned out, they were doing so for an array of different reasons.
|Verdicts and sentences:|
“The real question here, going forward, is how are these different political factions that have been represented in Tahrir Square, going to stay united in their aims. Does this turn from a spontaneous protest – an outburst against the Mubarak verdicts – into a political tool?” she said.
“Mubarak is 80 years old, I don’t care about his verdict. I cared more of the other people who were acquitted,” said Mohamed Ahmed, a protester in Cairo.
For some, the verdict raised concerns that, despite Mubarak’s fall and imprisonment, much of security apparatus of the former regime remained in place.
Many who supported Egypt’s revolution in early 2011 have voiced disappointment at the course of political developments, which will see Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohammed Morsi and Ahmed Shafiq, Mubarak’s last prime minister, contest a presidential runoff vote on June 16-17.
“Many people had the feeling while listening to the verdict that we were back in the days of the old regime,” said student Feda Essam, a protester in Tahrir Square.
Shafiq slams Brotherhood
Shafiq, meanwhile, has criticised the Muslim Brotherhood for attempting to use the verdicts for political gain.
During a news conference on Sunday, he accused Morsi of being a “sham”, saying that his party represented “isolation”, while Shafiq represented “all of Egypt”.
Many protesters in Cairo and Alexandria were using the demonstrations there to express their dissatisfaction with both choices available in the June 16-17 runoff. Many said that Shafiq, as prime minister during a part of the 2011 uprising, should also be tried for his role in the killing of citizens.
Shafiq has denied that he represents the Mubarak-era government, and pledged on Sunday that peaceful demonstrators would not be detained under his government, were he to be elected.
The former air force commander said he would strive for a “modern, civil, fair state” while the Muslim Brotherhood would “take it to the dark ages”.