An Egyptian administrative court fined ousted President Hosni Mubarak and two former officials 540 million Egyptian pounds ($91 million) on Saturday for cutting mobile and Internet services during protests in January.
It was the first court ruling to be made against Mubarak since he was ousted on February 11. Mubarak faces more serious charges, including ordering the killing of protesters, a charge which could carry the death penalty.
A judicial source said the administrative court fined Mubarak 200 million Egyptian pounds, former Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif 40 million pounds, and former Interior Minister Habib al-Adli 300 million pounds.
The court ruled that Mubarak, Nazif and Adli were guilty of causing damage to the national economy and the fines would be paid to the country's treasury.
Political analyst Nabil Abdel Fattah called the ruling extremely important, saying it would change the way the Egyptian government deals with the communication revolution.
This ruling will be a turning point for the standing and decisions of some Egyptian entities still living in an authoritarian culture regarding how to deal with communication services and the freedoms they offer, Abdel Fattah said.
The 18-day uprising that toppled Mubarak was largely Web-based, and was organized by groups on Facebook.
MOBILE OPERATORS HAD TO COMPLY
At least 800 people were killed during 18 days of protests that toppled Mubarak, and more than 6,000 were wounded by live ammunition, rubber bullets, water cannon and batons.
Telecoms operator Vodafone said in January it and other mobile operators had no option but to comply with an order from the authorities to suspend services in selected areas of the country during the peak of the anti-government demonstrations.
In February, Vodafone also accused the authorities of using its network to send pro-government text messages to subscribers.
Communications and Information Technology Minister Maged Othman said his ministry planned to pay compensation estimated at around 100 million pounds to mobile telecoms operators for losses caused by the service disruption, the state news agency MENA said. It said the figure was reached by independent bodies.
Adli was sentenced earlier this month to 12 years in jail on separate charges of money laundering and profiteering.
Mubarak, who is detained in a hospital in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, was ordered on Tuesday to stand trial for the killing of protesters.
Mubarak, who is also accused of abuse of power and wasting public funds, was officially notified on Saturday of his referral to a Cairo criminal court, a judicial source said.
His two sons Alaa and Gamal, who have been held in a Cairo prison on charges of abusing public funds, have also been officially notified of their referral to the criminal court, the source said.
In a separate case, Egyptian prosecutors charged former Information Minister Anas el-Fekky on Saturday with deliberately harming funds of the state-run Radio and Television Union (RTU).
The prosecutor said that Fekky was referred to a criminal court for depriving the RTU, which he ran, from earning about $1.9 million in profits by exempting private television stations from the fees for live broadcast of the 2009-2010 football season and the start of the 2010-2011 season.
(Reporting by Shaimaa Fayed; Editing by Sami Aboudi and Louise Ireland)