CAIRO, Nov 30 : Critics on Sunday accused Egypt's courts of taking sides after the dropping of a murder charge against ex-president Hosni Mubarak, with experts and activists saying the country's hopes for democracy were being dashed.
A Cairo court on Saturday dismissed the charge against 86-year-old Mubarak over the deaths of protesters during Egypt's 2011 Arab Spring uprising.
Mubarak, who ruled Egypt for three decades until being driven from office, remains imprisoned in a military hospital in a separate graft case, but his lawyer Farid al-Deeb told AFP he could see early release after serving two-thirds of a three-year sentence.
The ruling came amid a crackdown by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and prompted claims the former military chief was abusing the justice system to fight political battles and reinforce his authority.
"The verdict further reinforces concerns about the alarmingly selective justice system in Egypt, which appears more intent on settling political scores and punishing dissent than establishing justice," said the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), a leading rights group.
Sisi, who led the overthrow of the elected Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in July 2013, has been accused of instituting a regime even more authoritarian than Mubarak's -- stifling dissent and counting on the support of a public exhausted by years of instability.
Experts said he has increasingly bent the courts to his aims, with hundreds jailed in mass trials that the United Nations has described as "unprecedented in recent history".
In the latest case a court on Wednesday sentenced 78 teenage boys to between two and five years in prison for joining the blacklisted Muslim Brotherhood's rallies demanding Morsi's return.
"All of this proves that the justice system is in need of reform," human rights lawyer Gamal Eid said. Since the army ousted Morsi in July 2013, the government has launched a bloody crackdown against his supporters, leaving at least 1,400 dead and more than 15,000 jailed. ?AFP