An Egyptian criminal court on Thursday sentenced three associates of former president Hosni Mubarak [JURIST news archive] to prison and ordered them to pay fines after they were found guilty on charges of corruption that occurred under the Mubarak regime. Ahmed Ezz, a steel tycoon and former ranking member of the now-dissolved National Democratic Party [JURIST report], was accused of obtaining low cost materials necessary to the steel industry by illegally manipulating [LAT report] state-owned businesses. The former head of Egyptian industrial development, Amr Assal, was accused of collaborating with Ezz and granting licenses [Ahram online report] to steel companies that were without merit. Former trade minister Rachid Mohamed Rachid, was also sentenced for collaborating with Ezz by granting licenses without receiving payment and for misusing public funds [Reuters report]. Rachid was also sentenced to prison in June for squandering public funds and profiteering [JURIST report]. Ezz and Assal were both ordered to serve 10 years in prison and were ordered to pay fines totaling USD $111 million. The sentencing judge indicated that Ezz and Assal's fine represented the public funds they had wasted. Rachid was sentenced in absentia to a 15-year prison term and was ordered to pay a USD $237 million fine. The men do have the option of appealing their sentences to the Court of Cassation.
The men's sentences were handed down as Egyptians await the outcome of the trial against Mubarak. Mubarak's trial began on August 3 [JURIST report] with Mubarak and his sons pleading not guilty to all charges of corruption and murder. Presiding Judge Ahmed Rifaat last month decided to end live TV broadcasts [JURIST report] of subsequent proceedings amid protests from the families of victims and praise from several courtroom lawyers who opposed the broadcasts. Officials chose a new location for Mubarak's trial for security reasons after reporting [JURIST reports] that the trial would take place at a convention center in downtown Cairo. In July, an Egyptian criminal court postponed the trial [JURIST report] of former interior minister Habib el-Adly, who also faces murder charges in relation to the pro-democracy demonstrations, so it would coincide with Mubarak's trial. In March, a commission of Arab and Egyptian human rights groups accused Mubarak [JURIST report] and the police of murdering protesters during the demonstrations in Egypt. Mubarak could face the death penalty [JURIST report] if convicted of ordering attacks on protesters. Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] reported that at least 840 people were killed [JURIST report] and more than 6,000 injured during the Egyptian protests.