Egyptian former President Hosni Mubarak to face retrial

(Originally published by The Times)

By Evan Hill in Cairo 

Egypt’s highest appeals court yesterday overturned the life sentence imposed on Hosni Mubarak, the former President. It demanded a retrial for him, his two sons and seven senior ministers who were imprisoned after the revolution.

The ruling by Cairo’s Court of Cassation comes less than two weeks before demonstrators plan to mark the second anniversary of the revolt that toppled the Mubarak regime. While the court did not explain its reasoning, judges are reported to believe the prosecution was poorly conducted and the rulings were not sound.

Mubarak was jailed for life for conspiring to kill protesters during Egypt’s 2011 uprising. He has been transferred to a military hospital suffering from stomach cancer and is said to be gravely ill. He will remain in custody while he is investigated on other charges.

In a short statement, the court said it had ordered a retrial of Mubarak and the former Interior Minister, Habib al-Adly. Both were convicted last June of involvement in the deaths of over 900 people during the unrest that brought down the regime. The judges also ordered retrials for six Interior Ministry generals who had been acquitted of murder, as well as the businessman Hussein Salem and Mubarak’s two sons, Alaa and Gamal, who had been acquitted of corruption. They remain in custody, awaiting trial for alleged insider trading and using their influence to buy land at a fraction of its market price.

The state news agency reported that Mubarak’s lawyers shouted with joy in the courtroom as the decision was read, but public reaction was muted, and additional charges against Mubarak, his sons and Adly mean that all will remain in custody.

The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights called the ruling “the expected outcome of a flawed, disappointing trial”. It said politics, not justice, had steered the case and led to its errors. Lawyers and human rights activists observing the proceedings last year had lamented the prosecution’s weakness and mistakes made by the presiding judge, Ahmed Rifaat.

Judge Rifaat, when delivering the guilty verdicts, acknowledged that prosecutors had not presented direct evidence for Mubarak’s involvement in the killings, but said he had a responsibility as the nation’s leader to prevent them. Amr Shalakany, a law professor in Cairo, said Mubarak’s lawyers had skilfully “littered” the case with legitimate procedural grounds to overturn it. He said human rights attorneys now hoped prosecutors would use new evidence gathered by a national commission to try the case more effectively.