An Egyptian judge on Saturday sentenced the country's deposed president, Hosni Mubarak, to life in prison for the killing of unarmed protesters during the first six days of uprisings that ended his 30-year rule.
The ousted president and his sons were acquitted of corruption charges in a mixed verdict that sparked a new wave of protests among Egyptians, thousands of whom were reportedly pouring into Tahrir Square, the philosophical and geographical heart of last year's uprising, by Saturday afternoon, the Associated Press and Egyptian State Television reported.
After the sentencing, the 84-year-old Mubarak reportedly suffered a health crisis aboard a helicopter while en route to a Cairo prison from a military hospital, where he had awaited the verdict, according the AP. One state media report said Mubarek suffered a heart attack.
Mubarak cried in protest and may have resisted leaving the helicopter transporting him to the prison, security officials told the AP.
Mubarak was convicted of complicity in the deaths of approximately 250 demonstrators, which occurred during the first six days of the 18-day uprising that forced him to resign in February 2011. Although up to 840 civilians were killed during the protests and many others injured, prosecutors narrowed down the case to the 250 deaths that took place in public squares and other locations far from police stations, where police reportedly have more leeway to use deadly force to defend their facilities.
The judge reportedly acknowledged that the prosecutors had presented no clear evidence that Mubarak or his top aides had directly ordered the killing of protesters, leading him to find Mubarak responsible for the less severe charge of failing to stop those killings.
When reading his decision, Judge Ahmed Rafaat spoke glowingly of last year's uprisings, which he said were inspired by God. He praised the movement for ending 30 years of intense darkness -- black, black, black, the blackness of a chilly winter night, where officials committed the gravest sins, tyranny and corruption without accountability or oversight as their consciences died, their feelings became numb and their hearts in their chests turned blind.
Although the charges carried a possible death sentence, the judge instead chose to sentence Mubarak to life in prison.
Mubarak, who at the time of the verdict was reclining on a hospital gurney in a metal cage that holds criminal defendants in Egypt, showed no reaction to the verdict, the New York Times reported. His oldest son, Alaa Mubarak, appeared to recite verses of the Koran as the verdict was read. Both he and his brother, Gamal, still face charges in an unrelated stock-manipulation case.
Mubarak's verdict came days after the nation's upcoming presidential election was boiled down to a contest between two candidates: Ahmed Shafiq, Mubarak's last prime minister, and Mohammed Morsi, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, a fundamentalist Islamist group that was persecuted under Mubarak's reign.