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Mubarak, other former Egypt officials fined $91 million for blocking cellphones, Internet

The former president, prime minister and interior minister are found guilty of 'causing damage to the national economy,' according to state TV.

May 29, 2011|By Molly Hennessy-Fiske and Amro HassanLos Angeles Times
  • Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak at an October Arab-African summit in Sirte, Libya.
Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak at an October Arab-African summit… (Khaled el Fiqi, EPA )

Reporting from Cairo — A judge fined former President Hosni Mubarak and two officials about $91 million Saturday for cutting cellphone and Internet services during the protests this winter that forced Mubarak to step down.

It was the first court ruling against Mubarak since he was ousted Feb. 11.

Egyptian state television reported late Saturday that an administrative court fined Mubarak about $33.6 million, former Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif about $6.7 million, and former Interior Minister Habib Adli about $50.4 million.

The three were found guilty of "causing damage to the national economy," state television reported, and ordered to pay the fines to the Egyptian treasury.

Political analyst Nabil Abdel Fattah said the ruling was a watershed for activists and academics who struggled to express themselves and organize online under the Mubarak regime.

"It protects organizing networks in virtual space," he said, and signals that under Egypt's transitional military government, "you must respect the freedom of speech and communications. Any authoritarian constraints are refused."

The revolution was in large part fueled by activists mobilizing via Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites.

The Egyptian government plans to pay about $16.8 million to telecommunications companies for forcing them to suspend their services during the revolution, Maged Othman, the minister of communications and information technology, told the state news agency.

Mubarak, who was ordered Tuesday to stand trial in connection with the killing of protesters, is also accused of abuse of power and wasting public funds. He was officially notified Saturday that his case had been referred to a Cairo criminal court, state television reported. He is being held at a hospital in the Red Sea resort town of Sharm el Sheik.

His two sons, Alaa and Gamal, who have been held in a Cairo prison on charges of abusing public funds, were given similar notification, state television said.

Adli, the former interior minister, was sentenced this month to 12 years in prison on charges of money laundering and profiteering.

In a separate case Saturday, Egyptian prosecutors charged former Information Minister Anas Fekky with "deliberately harming" the funds of the state-run Radio and Television Union.

molly.hennessy-fiske@latimes.com

Hassan is a news assistant in The Times' Cairo bureau.

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