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Egypt: Hosni Mubarak life sentence sparks protests

Egyptian president ousted in Arab Spring uprisings was found guilty of involvement in the killing of nearly 1,000 protesters.

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Egyptian riot policemen stand guard as protesters shout slogans against ousted leader Hosni Mubarak outside a court where his verdict hearing was taking place in Cairo on June 2, 2012. (AFP/Getty Images)

Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian president ousted in last year's Arab Spring uprisings, was convicted of involvement in the murder of nearly 1,000 protesters and sentenced to life in prison.

He was immediately transferred to prison and suffered serious health problems along the way, according to state TV reports cited by Ahram Online. He reportedly received medical treatment aboard the helicopter carrying him.

According to the Washington Post, Egyptians outside the courtroom rejoiced as Judge Ahmed Refaat, the head of the judicial panel trying Mubarak, announced the verdict.

Voice of America said the mood changed as Mubarak's opponents realized he and his former officials had not been convicted of all charges.

Thousands of Egyptians took to the streets to protest the verdict, according to Reuters. Some called for Mubarak's execution while others felt that the judge's ruling would let Mubarak off on an appeal.

Once again, protesters gathered in Tahrir Square, and demonstrators in Alexandria chanted: "We are done with talk, we want an execution!"

Voice of America's correspondent said of the protesters, "They are waving the Egyptian flag. They are shouting for a cleansing of the judiciary. They are calling for new trials. And, it is quite a broad spectrum of people who have gone down there."

Mubarak’s former interior minister Habib al-Adly was also convicted of complicity in the killings and sentenced to life, Agence France-Presse reported.

However, Mubarak and his sons — Alaa and Gamal — were acquitted of corruption charges due to insufficient evidence, while six former police commanders being tried along with Mubarak and Adly for the killing of protesters were also acquitted, AFP reported.

More from GlobalPost: Mubarak's sons face fresh corruption trial in Egypt

The acquittals sparked scuffles and chants of "void, void" and "the people want the judiciary purged."

Thousands of riot police stationed outside the building in advance of the hearing prevented protesters and victims' relatives from getting too close, the Associated Press reported.

More than 850 protesters were reportedly killed, most shot to death, in Cairo and other major cities during 18 days of mass protests that ended with Mubarak's ouster on Feb. 11, 2011.

The AP wrote that the harsh sentence against Hosni Mubarak,  84, "appeared aimed at defusing tensions ahead of a divisive runoff" for the presidency on June 16-17 contested by Mubarak's "protégé" Ahmed Shafiq and Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohammed Morsi.

More from GlobalPost: Mubarak denies charges as trial starts in Cairo 

Meantime, media described the scene at the courtroom, with Mubarak, wearing dark glasses and a beige leisure suit, reportedly showing no emotion as Rafaat read out the sentence.

His elder son Alaa whispered verses from the Quran, the AP wrote, and both appeared visibly upset on hearing the verdict.

The New York Times cited the judge as acknowledging that prosecutors presented no evidence that Mubarak had directly ordered the killing of protesters.

However, he was complicit in the killings in that he did nothing to stop them, Rafaat said.

More from GlobalPost: Egypt's 31-year state of emergency lifted

The Times quoted Rafaat as "waxing poetic" about the uprising that ended Mubarak’s rule.

"The peaceful sons of the homeland came out of every deep ravine with all the pain they experienced from injustice, heartbreak, humiliation and oppression," he reportedly said.

"Bearing the burden of their suffering on their shoulders, they moved peacefully toward Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt’s capital, demanding only justice, freedom and democracy."

The AP cited Rafaat as describing Mubarak's era as "30 years of darkness" and "a darkened nightmare" that ended only when Egyptians rose up to demand change.

"They peacefully demanded democracy from rulers who held tight grip on power," the judge said.

Here is a video report from the AP: