Egypt's top appeals court issued a final ruling Thursday that effectively acquits former President Hosni Mubarak on charges of killing protesters during the 2011 uprising that ended his nearly three-decade reign, the AP reports. The Court of Cassation rejected an appeal by prosecutors, allowing an acquittal verdict from 2014 to stand. The judge also rejected a civil petition for compensation from families of some of the hundreds of protesters killed during the 18-day Arab Spring uprising. Mubarak and his interior minister, Habib al-Adly, were convicted and sentenced to life in prison in 2012 on charges of failing to protect the lives of demonstrators, but another court threw out the verdict two years later, citing technical flaws in the prosecution. The ailing 88-year-old Mubarak was flown by helicopter to the courtroom from the Cairo military hospital where he has resided for most of the last six years, and where he served a three-year sentence for corruption charges in a separate case. He sat in a wheelchair in the defendant's cage during the hearing.
When the charges against him were read out, he responded: "It did not happen." Later he exchanged smiles and winks with a dozen or so supporters in the courtroom, including his two sons. Mubarak does not face any other charges and is technically free to go, but it was unclear whether he would leave the hospital, where he has been under informal house arrest in recent years. Mubarak and figures from his government were widely vilified in the months after the uprising, but many have gradually returned to public life since 2013, when the military overthrew his freely elected successor, the Islamist Mohammed Morsi, after a divisive year in power. International and local rights groups say the freedoms won in the 2011 uprising have been lost since then, and that the security services today under President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who as military chief led Morsi's overthrow, are even more brutal and repressive than under Mubarak. (Read more Hosni Mubarak stories.)