An Egyptian court yesterday acquitted 24 loyalists of ousted President Hosni Mubarak who had been accused of organizing one of the most dramatic attacks on protesters during last year's uprising, the "Camel Battle," in which assailants on horses and camels charged into crowds in Cairo's Tahrir Square. The 24 defendants, including some of the biggest names of Mubarak's regime, were found innocent on charges of manslaughter and attempted murder. The February 2011 assault left nearly a dozen people dead and was a major turning point in the 18-day wave of protests that led to Mubarak's downfall.
It came a day after Mubarak spoke on national television, saying he would eventually step down. The emotional speech won him sympathy and drained the numbers of protesters in a days-long sit-in in Cairo's Tahrir Square, the heart of the uprising. But then the attack came. A crowd of Mubarak supporters waded into the young activists at the sit-in. Amid the melee, a number of men on horses and camels swept in, trying to beat and trample protesters. The attack and the images of young protesters fighting back reversed sympathies and galvanized the uprising. A senior figure in the Muslim Brotherhood labeled the acquittal a "farce" and called on Egypt's new president Mohamed Morsi to intervene to retry the defendants