All 24 defendants in the "Battle of the Camel" case were acquitted of killing protesters on 2 and 3 February last year during the uprising that ousted President Hosni Mubarak.
The court said it acquitted all the defendants because the witness testimonies were based on hearsay and grudges against the defendants over parliamentary elections, Al-Masry Al-Youm reported.
The court was not comfortable with the testimonies, it said, except that of Major General Hassan al-Ruwainy, the former commander of the central military zone, who said there were no dead bodies or weapons found on location the day of the battle.
According to Al-Masry Al-Youm, the court found the evidence insufficient to convict the accused, and pointed out that there was a prosecution witnesses against the defendants who had been imprisoned before on charges of perjury.
The full rationale of the verdict is expected to be announced in a few days.
The trial, which began last year, included members of the disbanded National Democratic Party, businessmen and former lawmakers. Among those on trial were former Shura Council Speaker Safwat al-Sherif, former People’s Assembly Speaker Fathi Sorour, and ceramics tycoon Mohamed Abul Enein.
A total of 24 defendants, all senior officials of the former regime,were acquitted. Businessman and former leading NDP member Ibrahim Kamel, former Manpower and Immigration Minister Aisha Abdel Hady, former MP Mortada Mansour, and Hussein Megawer, former head of the Egyptian Trade Union Federation, were also charged in the case.
On 2 February 2011, peaceful pro-democracy demonstrators were attacked by assailants in Tahrir Square, some of whom rode horses and camels. At least 11 protesters were killed and hundreds were injured.
A judicial source told the state-run MENA news agency that Public Prosecutor Abdel Meguid Mahmoud is studying the rationale of the verdict.
The source said that the public prosecutor did not investigate that case in the first place, and that investigation was carried out by judges assigned from Cairo Court of Appeal.
For its part, the Revolutionary Socialists Movement said a Friday demonstration would be the best response to the verdict, which it called a “farce." “It was a political judgment,” said movement spokesperson Hisham Fouad. “It has nothing to do with the independence of the judiciary.”
“It is but another episode in the series of acquittals the former regime officials obtained,” he added in a statement. “All political forces and civil society organizations will reject this.”
Presidential adviser Saif Abdel Fattah said the evidence brought to the court was insufficient. “A judge bases his judgment on facts and not on his personal intuition,” he told the state-run Al-Ahram newspaper.
Abdel Fattah added that the president is committed to his pledge to hold retrials for the killers of the 25 January revolution martyrs.