CAIRO (AFP) – The retrial of Egypt’s former president Hosni Mubarak was set to begin on Saturday in Cairo, after an appeal against the life sentence handed down against him last June was accepted.
Television footage showed Mubarak, dressed in white and wearing sunglasses, wheeled out of an ambulance on a stretcher and taken into the capital’s Police Academy in a suburb of the capital where the trial is being held.
He was flown to the academy that was once named after him by helicopter from the Cairo military hospital where he is being treated, the official MENA news agency said.
Mubarak’s two sons, Gamal and Alaa, and his former security chief Habib al-Adly, are also at the court for the retrial, MENA added.
A handful of Mubarak supporters outside the court house held up posters of their former leader, but were outnumbered by security officers.
The fate of the ousted strongman has been largely eclipsed by deadly turmoil and economic woes currently gripping Egypt.
His original trial in August 2011 was a major moment for both Egypt and the region, being the first time an Arab leader deposed by his people had appeared in court in person.
Mubarak, Adly and six security chiefs are in the dock again over their alleged complicity in the murder and attempted murder of hundreds of peaceful protesters on January 25-31, 2011.
Gamal and Alaa Mubarak — once symbols of Egyptian power and wealth — are also being retried on corruption charges. Another defendant, business tycoon Hussein Salem, is being tried in absentia.
Mubarak, who turns 85 in May, has suffered several health scares and MENA even reported him clinically dead at one point as he slipped into a coma.
In January, Egypt’s highest court, the Court of Cassation, ordered a retrial for Mubarak after accepting an appeal against his life sentence, citing procedural failings.
Adly had also been sentenced to life for involvement in the deaths of protesters, but controversially his security chiefs were acquitted, sparking widespread anger and protests after last June’s verdict.
President Mohamed Morsi, who won elections that same month on the Muslim Brotherhood’s ticket, had pledged new trials for former regime officials including Mubarak.
But Morsi’s presidency has been plagued by unrest and deadly clashes between protesters and police, a revolt in the canal cities, sectarian violence and a devastating economic crisis.
“The country is largely unlikely to pay attention to the trial,” said H.A. Hellyer, a non-resident fellow at the Brookings Institution.
“There is the potential that the ruling party use the trial to deflect attention from the problems they are facing,” he told AFP.
But despite the fact that what happens to Mubarak seems of little relevance to many, there is still widespread anger over no one being held accountable for nearly 900 deaths during the 18-day uprising in 2011.
Mubarak’s epic fall, from dictatorial head of the Arab world’s most populous nation to a defendant behind bars, was for many a promising sign the revolution which toppled him was on the right track.
But the original case against him verged on the farcical, with patchwork evidence and prosecution witnesses exonerating the defendants, according to legal experts.