© The Associated PressThe jailing of Habib al-Adly, left, Egypt's former Interior Minister is the first conviction against any cabinet member of the former leader Hosni Mubarak, who was ousted in February.
Egyptians are celebrating the sentencing of the once-feared former Interior Minister, Habib el-Adly, to 12 years in prison, a decision which sets the scene for a series of high-profile corruption trials of senior figures from the government of the ousted president, Hosni Mubarak.

Seen as a triumph for the rule of law and a vindication of the revolution that defined the so-called Arab spring, the trials could include Mr Mubarak.

''This marks a new beginning,'' said Salama Ahmed Salama, the head of the editorial board of the independent newspaper El Shorouk. ''For the first time someone who represented such a brutal force is questioned, interrogated and held accountable. This is something new for Egyptian politics, and it is new for Egyptian justice.''

El-Adly's lawyer could not be reached for comment. But Gameel Said, a lawyer representing about six other former government officials, called the trial fair. ''There was no animosity between the judge and the defendants,'' he said. ''The requirements of justice were considered in this case like any other case.''

Arguably the most powerful cabinet minister under Mubarak, el-Adly, 73, personified the government's repressive tactics. He presided for 14 years over a central security force of nearly 400,000. The security police focused exclusively on suppressing domestic dissent and unrest, specialising in torture and detention without trial. Among the force's most common targets were Egyptians who sought to apply the teachings of Islam to political life, whether through violence or the ballot box.

El-Adly was convicted of profiting illegally from his office and laundering money; the charges involved about $1.2 million. Now he will return to the Tora prison in Cairo to await a second trial on charges relating to his role overseeing the attacks on protesters demonstrating against the Mubarak government in January and February. About 800 people died during the 18-day uprising.

When the security forces failed to break the protests, el-Adly was widely blamed for the disappearance of police officers from Cairo's streets, which set off a wave of looting before civilians organised in their neighbourhoods.

After Mr Mubarak stepped down on February 11, el-Adly was among the first former officials to be arrested and charged in a crackdown on corruption.

El-Adly watched the court proceedings dressed in a white prison uniform with a white cap. He stood in the heavy metal cage that serves as the dock in Egyptian courts.

Corruption was endemic in the Egyptian government for decades under Mr Mubarak. The vow of the Tahrir Square protesters to cleanse the political system remains an ambitious goal.

Under the country's interim military government, Egyptian prosecutors have shown great zeal for pursuing former Mubarak government officials. As many as a dozen senior officials await trial alongside el-Adly, including Mr Mubarak's two sons, Alaa and Gamal. Neither has been charged.