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Longtime Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak sentenced to life in prison

On this day in 2012, former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak is found guilty of failing to stop the killings of hundreds of anti-government demonstrators during the 2011 popular uprising that forced an end to his nearly 30 years in power. The 84-yer-old Mubarak was sentenced to life in prison.

Born in Egypt in 1928, Mubarak was an Egyptian air force commander before being selected as his country’s vice president in 1975 by President Anwar Sadat. After Sadat was assassinated by Islamic gunmen during a military parade in Cairo, the nation’s capital, in October 1981, Mubarak became Egypt’s fourth president. His three decades as leader of the Arab world’s most populated country were marked by government corruption, political repression and economic stagnation. Throughout his entire regime, Egypt was under “emergency law,” enabling the government to arrest and detain people indefinitely without charging them. Police brutality in Egypt was reported to be widespread during this time.

The uprising that led to Mubarak’s downfall began on January 25, 2011, when mass protests calling for his resignation broke out in Cairo and other cities across Egypt. The demonstrators were inspired in part by the popular uprising in Tunisia that resulted in the country’s authoritarian president being toppled on January 14, 2011. (The uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, and those that followed later that year in other countries in North Africa and the Middle East, would come to be known collectively as the Arab Spring.) After days of growing protests in Egypt, Mubarak announced on February 1 he would not seek re-election that September. The protests continued, though, with clashes between Mubarak supporters and anti-government demonstrators turning violent. On February 10, Mubarak defiantly announced he would delegate authority to his vice president but would not step down. However, the next day, he handed over power to the nation’s military and fled to the Egyptian resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh.

In August 2011, Mubarak went on trial in Cairo for failing to stop the killings of hundreds of anti-government demonstrators during the uprising. He was convicted on June 2, 2012, and sentenced to life in prison. Mubarak’s former interior minister also received a life sentence for his role in the killings, but six former police commanders were acquitted. Additionally, Mubarak and his two sons were acquitted of corruption charges because the court said a statute of limitations had expired. The verdicts sparked protests by Egyptians who believed Mubarak’s sentence wasn’t tough enough and that his police officials should not have been acquitted.

On June 30, 2012, Mohamed Morsi was sworn into office as Egypt’s first democratically elected president.

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