A Cairo court ordered a retrial of ousted Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak on 13 January, granting an appeal of the former dictator’s life sentence for failing to prevent violence against protesters, including complicity in the deaths of some 850 people, during the 2011 uprising that ended his 30-year reign.
The Court of Cassation, led by Judge Ahmed Ali Abdel-Rahman, also ordered retrials for ex-interior minister Habib al-Adli and six other Mubarak-era security officials who stood trial with him in 2012. The 84-year old Mubarak, who remains in custody in a military hospital, will also be retried on charges of corruption along with his sons Alaa and Gamal, and close business associate Hussein Salem.
The retrials are likely to revive difficult memories of the events surrounding Mubarak's overthrow, which took place almost exactly two years ago. While Mubarak supporters celebrated the news, there was an otherwise muted reaction to the retrials, with analysts divided on their probable impact. Some say it will allow for sharper examination of evidence that may have been overlooked during the high-profile 10-month trial. Protesters claim that the trial was marred by the interference of officials loyal to Mubarak who they claim was also shielded by the then ruling generals.
Other analysts say that the retrials could pave the way to more lenient sentences. Opponents fear that if Mubarak and his officials receive lesser sentences then it could trigger mass protests similar to those seen during the 2011 revolution. Under Egyptian law, a defendant cannot face a harsher sentence in a retrial, meaning that Mubarak cannot face the death penalty.
Either way, the sentences had been appealed by both the defence and the prosecution, for opposing reasons, and none of the defendants will go free, due to other pending cases.
News of the retrial follows President Mohamed Morsi's recent call on the attorney general’s office to launch new investigations and trials for Mubarak, Adli and other former officials whose sentencing — and in some cases, acquittals — were considered too lenient by some members of the public.
The announcement of the retrials, for which a date has yet to be set, came the day after Mubarak was reportedly questioned over allegedly receiving lavish gifts from Egypt's state newspaper, Al-Ahram.
Meanwhile the retrial provides Morsi with a distraction from the country's crippling economic situation as well as the crucial upcoming election for a new house of deputies – taking place some three months from now – in which Morsi and his Islamist allies are hoping to take a comfortable majority of seats.