Egypt's top appeals court has acquitted former dictator Hosni Mubarak of involvement in the killing of hundreds of protesters during the 2011 revolution that ended his nearly three-decade reign.
The former president was originally sentenced to life in prison in 2012 for conspiring to murder 239 demonstrators during an 18-day revolt which began in January 2011.He was also found guilty of sowing chaos and creating a security vacuum.
However, an appeals court later overturned the verdict and ordered a retrial, citing technical flaws in the prosecution.
The retrial resulted in dropping the case two years later, but the public prosecution appealed the decision and ordered another retrial by Egypt's top appeals court.
The Thursday ruling by Egypt's top appeals court -- the Court of Cassation -- is final.
During the court hearing, the judge read Mubarak the charges, in which he and his interior minister were accused of providing weapons and vehicles used to assault protesters.
Mubarak denied the charges as he was sitting in a wheelchair in the defendant's cage, saying, “It did not happen.”
Hundreds of people died when security forces clashed with demonstrators in the weeks before Mubarak was ousted from power in 2011.
Lawyers representing the families of those killed in the 2011 revolution have called for the charges against Mubarak to be upgraded to murder. They have also demanded that the court summon current President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who was head of military intelligence at the time.
Mubarak-era figures are gradually being cleared of charges and a series of laws limiting freedoms have raised fears among activists that the old regime is back.
In an election after Mubarak’s ouster, Muslim Brotherhood-backed Mohamed Morsi was elected president. Morsi was later ousted in a military coup led by Sisi in July 2013.
Since Morsi was toppled, the Egyptian government has been cracking down on any opposition.
Rights groups say the army’s crackdown has led to the deaths of over 1,400 people and the arrest of 22,000 others, including some 200 people who have been sentenced to death in mass trials.
The UN Human Rights Council has repeatedly expressed concern over Egyptian security forces’ heavy-handed crackdown and the killing of anti-government protesters.