By Heba Fahmy
CAIRO: Former interior minister Habib El-Adly was sentenced to 12 years in prison for money laundering and unlawful acquisition of public funds on Thursday, the first official of the former regime to be convicted.
“We will file a request to overturn the verdict after the court releases the justifications behind the ruling,” Essam El-Batawy, lawyer representing El-Adly, told Daily News Egypt.
He declined to comment on the verdict.
El-Adly was also fined around LE 14 million for his crimes while LE 4.5 million was confiscated from his bank account.
He was sentenced to seven years in prison and fined around LE 4.8 million for unlawful acquisition of public funds, and five years in prison with a LE 9.6 million fine for money laundering.
The former minister was accused of exploiting his position as a public servant to sell land to a contractor hired by the interior ministry, in a deal worth LE 4.8 million, in addition to money laundering to the tune of LE 4.5 million.
Ibrahim Bassiouny, civil society lawyer volunteering for the prosecution, told DNE, “The court ruling is very fair and just.”
“The verdict was expected because all of the evidence proved El-Adly was guilty,” Bassiouny added.
El-Adly is facing two other trials for his involvement in killing protesters during the January 25 Revolution and illegal profiteering related to importing overpriced number plates.
He was arrested on Feb. 17, along with former tourism minister Zoheir Garranah and steel tycoon Ahmed Ezz, formerly a senior member of ousted president Hosni Mubarak’s National Democratic Party.
Lawyer with the Front for Defending Egyptian Protesters (FDEP) Ragia Omran said El-Adly’s verdict was “a bit harsh.”
She added that amount of public funds embezzled by El-Adly was “nothing” in comparison with the huge amounts reportedly embezzled by other Egyptian officials.
Dozens of former officials are currently being investigated or are facing trials for a variation of graft charges. The money involved, whether in squandering or profiteering charges, reach hundreds of millions in some cases.
“This verdict can be appealed and is likely to be reduced significantly, so the people shouldn’t get too excited,” Omran told DNE.
“What’s more important to the people is the court’s ruling for El-Adly’s involvement in the killing of protesters,” she added.
Some human rights lawyers were optimistic to hear the court’s verdict, while others were skeptic that the ruling indicated that the rest of Egypt’s former corrupt officials would soon follow.
“This is a very good start for penalizing Egyptian officials who have stolen and violated Egypt’s wealth,” law professor and member of the Popular Fact-finding Mission, Hossam Eissa, told DNE.
The investigations of the fact finding mission proved that El-Adly gave the orders to kill peaceful protesters during the youth uprising that launched on Jan 25, he said.
El-Adly received approval from ousted President Mubarak to do so, he added.
“Even if Mubarak didn’t give El-Adly direct orders, which I highly doubt, he kept silent while peaceful protesters were shot dead for several days, which indicates his approval,” Eissa said.
Omran speculated that El-Adly would get the death sentence or at least life in prison, if he proved to have taken orders from Mubarak
A youth-led uprising in Egypt that started on Jan. 25 and continued for 18 days led to the ouster Mubarak. Violent clashes between security forces and demonstrators during the first few days left at least 846 dead and over 6,000 injured, according to the report of the official fact-finding mission.
El-Adly is alleged to have ordered the police to withdraw from Egypt’s streets, creating a security vacuum that lasted for weeks since the night of Jan. 28, dubbed the “Friday of Anger.”
El-Adly was also referred to criminal court on April 17 along with Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif and Finance Minister Youssef Boutros-Ghali for illegal profiteering and importing number plates from a German company for LE 92 million more than the local market price for no justifiable reason and without holding a public tender.
Ghali fled the country in February and the general prosecutor requested Interpol to have him arrested. Ghali is also facing other corruption charges, one of which will be addressed in court on June 4.
Ahmed Ragheb, director of the Hisham Mubarak Law Center, doubted that Egypt’s judiciary system, which was “affected by the former corrupt regime”, became transparent and just, following the Jan 25 revolution.
“The judiciary system has been deeply affected by the former regime’s recurring violations of human rights and I don’t believe it’s ready to implement justice for Egyptians,” Ragheb told DNE.
“Even the reports and documents that are used as evidence against these officials might represent a small fraction of their real violations against Egypt and its people,” Ragheb said.
“This verdict against El-Adly might be merely a way to ease the people’s anger.”
Ragheb added that El-Adly might be used as a scapegoat for other high ranking officials including Mubarak.
The former president and his two sons have been undergoing investigations since April 13 for accusations of corruption, abuse of authority and their involvement in killing peaceful protesters.
Most of the top officials of Mubarak’s regime are now being investigated on allegations of corruption and abuse of authority.
On Wednesday, Egypt’s Cabinet sacked the head of the Forensic Examinations Authority, El-Sebaei Ahmed El-Sebaei, who is under investigation for corruption allegations, especially related to the Khalid Saeid case and the autopsies conducted on those killed during the 18-day uprising.