Opulent palaces, lavish mansions: For years, Hosni Mubarak and his family enriched themselves at the Egyptian public's expense. Now the fallen dictator and his two sons have been handed prison sentences.
Mubarak and his sons were convicted Wednesday of plundering the state treasury of millions of dollars. The ex-president was sentenced to three years and his sons to four years each. The three were ordered to pay a total of about $21 million in fines and reimbursements to the state.
The verdict by a Cairo court came more than three years after the revolution that drove the now 86-year-old Mubarak from power after three decades of near-absolute rule. During those years, he and his relatives lived a life of luxury amid Egypt's overwhelming poverty, furnishing and renovating private residences with diverted public funds, according to prosecutors.
The case and a pending lawsuit linked to it could ensnare some powerful figures in the current administration. The charges stemmed from private expenses during Mubarak's last decade in power that were allegedly falsified with the help of a state-owned enterprise, Arab Contractors, then run by Ibrahim Mehleb, who is now prime minister.
Egyptian activist and journalist Hossam Bahgat published a report online Wednesday suggesting complicity by Gen. Mohamed Tohamy, now the country's intelligence chief, in a coverup of the graft. In the military, Tohamy was a mentor to former Field Marshal Abdel Fattah Sisi, who is expected to win next week's presidential election.
Mubarak has been in custody at a military hospital in Cairo and is expected to remain there. His lawyers will probably argue that he is too ill and frail to serve prison time. The ex-leader still faces a retrial on charges related to the deaths of hundreds of protesters during the Tahrir Square uprising of 2011.
Mubarak and his sons — Gamal, whom he had tried to anoint as his successor, and Alaa, a business magnate — can appeal Wednesday's verdict. If the sentence is upheld, they will get credit for time served. Four codefendants were acquitted.
In the caged dock, Mubarak sat impassively in his wheelchair, wearing a suit and tie, his hair still dyed jet-black, as the judge sternly lectured him about embezzling public funds even as the country grappled with dire needs. His sons, who also face additional graft charges, were in white prison uniforms.
Egyptians were initially transfixed by images of a once powerful leader brought into court in the two cases against him, at times so enfeebled that he was carried in on a stretcher. The shock value diminished as the legal proceedings dragged on for months, then years. Even so, an acquittal would probably have caused a wave of popular discontent.
Authorities are keeping a tight grip on public order in advance of the presidential election, including steps such as closing universities during the week of the vote. Sisi, who has been the country's de facto leader since President Mohamed Morsi was deposed in July, is expected to overwhelmingly win the vote Monday and Tuesday.
Hassan is a special correspondent.