Middle East

Egypt: Mubarak ministers cleared of corruption

File photo of former Egyptian Finance Minister Youssef Boutros Ghali, who is being tried in absentia after fleeing post-revolutionary Egypt
Image caption The ex-finance minister was found innocent, but has already been sentenced in absentia for other charges

An Egyptian court has acquitted three ministers from the toppled regime of Hosni Mubarak of squandering public funds.

They were the first not guilty verdicts issued in a series of trials of former senior officials following the fall of Mr Mubarak in February.

The ministers include former Finance Minister Youssef Boutros Ghali.

He fled the country in February, and has since been found guilty and sentenced in absentia on other charges.

The three ministers, who include former Information Minister Anas al-Fikki, still face trials on other charges or have already been found guilty in separate corruption investigations.

'Judicial integrity'

Mr Fikki still faces charges that he deliberately misused funds from the state-run radio and television union while Mr Boutros Ghali - who has fled the country and was tried in absentia - was convicted last month and sentenced to 30 years in prison for profiteering and abuse of state and private assets.

Former Trade Minister Rachid Mohamed Rachid, meanwhile, was sentenced in absentia on Tuesday to five years in prison for squandering public funds.

In a separate ruling, former Housing Minister Ahmed Maghrabi was also acquitted. He has also already been sentenced to a prison term on other charges.

Anger at government corruption helped fuel the mass protests that overthrew Mr Mubarak, and these trials are being seen as a test of the resolve of the military council that is ruling in his stead.

Along with his sons Alaa and Gamal, Mr Mubarak has been charged with "premeditated murder" of some participants in the protests, charges he denies. If found guilty, he could face the death penalty.

Hundreds of people died in 18 days of revolt against Mr Mubarak, who lost power in February after ruling for almost three decades.

The former leader is also being questioned over charges that he and his family made huge profits during the three decades he spent as Egyptian president.

One of the ministers' lawyers said Tuesday's ruling proved that the country had maintained its "judicial integrity".

"The verdicts fall under the legitimacy of the justice system and not the legitimacy of the revolution," the unnamed lawyer was reported as telling Reuters news agency.

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