An Egyptian court sentenced the former interior minister who oversaw the expansion of the Mubarak regime’s vast security apparatus to 12 years in prison for corruption, in the first conviction of a senior former regime official since a popular uprising drove President Hosni Mubarak from power.
The conviction of former Interior Minister Habib al-Adly for money laundering and profiteering stemming from a fraudulent land deal kicks off a string of prosecutions of the former regime’s leading figures on corruption charges and other crimes.
Mr. Adly, who pleaded not guilty, was also fined 15 million Egyptian pounds, or $2.5 million. His lawyer couldn’t be reached for comment.
Mr. Adly is still awaiting a verdict in a second criminal trial, in which he faces six additional charges, including ordering police to open fire on protesters during the uprising—a charge for which he could face the death penalty. He pleaded not guilty to these charge as well.
The ruling Egyptian military appears intent on showing Egyptians it is responding swiftly to their demands for the trial of former officials, and to placate the popular anger that fueled the 18-day uprising that toppled the regime in February.
The military assumed control of Egypt’s government after Mr. Mubarak stepped down on Feb. 11 and is expected to continue ruling until elections are held later this year.
“It is a good day when this particular interior minister is sent to jail,” said Hossam Bahgat, a human-rights activist in Cairo working on legal cases against former regime figures.
During his 13 years in the post, Mr. Adly oversaw an internal security apparatus numbering 500,000 people. Human-rights goups say that under his watch, the police use of torture grew into an endemic problem in the Egyptian justice system.
Under Mr. Adly’s leadership, the ministry of interior expanded its role in the country’s political scene, using its resources and manpower to monitor and in many cases muzzle civil society and political organizations, according to rights groups.
Thousands of detainees were held, in some cases for many years, without ever being charged or put on trial. Under Mr. Adly, the ministry was frequently accused by rights groups of ignoring court orders for the release of detainees.
Rights groups say 846 people died in the 18-day youth-led uprising, which began on Jan. 25. Most of those were killed during the first four days of protests, when Mr. Adly’s security forces were still out in the streets. If convicted of ordering police to fire on protesters, Mr. Adly could face the death penalty, according to prosecutors.
Mr. Mubarak, who is being detained in an Egyptian hospital room, is also under investigation for his involvement in the killings of protesters and could similarly face the death penalty if charged and convicted, prosecutors said.
Mr. Adly has also been charged with crimes related to his allegedly ordering police off the streets on Jan. 28, the fourth day of protests, opening up the city’s prisons to free hundreds of inmates, and hiring former prisoners and others to attack protesters.
The country has yet to fully recover from those decisions. Many escaped inmates haven’t been recaptured and police are still operating at substantially less than full strength. Egyptians say they fear crime rates are on the rise as a result.
Egypt’s prosecutors have cast a wide net in their efforts to bring former regime officials to justice.Six of Mr. Adly’s top lieutenants are also on trial facing charges related to the violence against protesters, as are a number of top ranking security officials from 13 Egyptian governorates.
Many of the top officials from Mr. Mubarak’s regime are behind bars pending corruption investigations, including the former prime minister, the speakers of both houses of parliament, Mr. Mubarak’s chief of staff, and his two sons, Gamal and Alaa.
The investigations into Mubarak-era corruption appear to enjoy wide support in Egypt, but many human-rights activists here say the investigations are being carried out in an ad hoc manner that is unlikely to expose the full breadth of crimes committed by the old regime.
Activists are calling for the formation of a truth and reconciliation commission that has a more systematic approach to holding the former regime accountable for its years of alleged corruption and other alleged crimes.
Some Egyptian businessmen have also complained that the corruption investigations have cast too wide a net and unfairly implicated innocent businessmen and political figures. These businessmen say that is scaring away investment and slowing the country’s economic recovery. WSJ