Nearly 1,000 protesters were killed in the uprising against Mubarak, most during clashes with security forces in the early days of the uprising, which began on Jan. 25, 2011. But almost none of the officials and policemen brought to trial for the deaths have been found guilty. Most were released for lack of evidence and poor investigation.
That prompted criticism from a public weary from months of turmoil and concerned that members of Mubarak's regime wound not be held accountable for the deaths of protesters. As a Mubarak-era official who prepared politicized cases against regime opponents, Mahmoud's removal has been a top demand of protesters.
On the other hand, the timing of Morsi's move was seen as an attempt to defuse the anger of liberals and secular activists, his rivals, who were preparing for Friday rallies against Islamist rule called "the Friday of Accountability," as well as demanding reform of a key assembly assigned to write the country's new constitution. The body is monopolized by Islamists and has produced proposed provisions seen as suppressing civil liberties.
When asked whether the dismissal is linked to the court acquittals, Morsi's chief of staff, Ahmed Abdel-Atti, also a member of the Brotherhood, said, "the general political atmosphere affects decisions by the state and the president."
The acquittals were condemned by Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood, which said it would join Friday's protests to demand retrials. When news spread about Morsi's removing Mahmoud, Brotherhood protesters gathering in Tahrir Square chanted, "we love you Morsi," and beating drums.
Abdel-Atti said Morsi has met with top advisers and ministers and urged a new fact-finding mission to speed up work to put in place a new law to "protect the revolution" and allow new trials for former regime members, top security officials and police accused in the killing of protesters during the uprising.
Human rights lawyer Ahmed Ragheb said that it will take more than removing the prosecutor general to reform the judiciary.
"The judiciary is packed by judges who acted as Mubarak's soldiers. Changing the prosecutor general won't change that. Instead, drastic reforms are needed," he said.