Egypt court sets May 11 for Mubarak retrial
CAIRO (AP) — The Cairo appellate court on Wednesday set May 11 for the resumption of ousted Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s retrial in the deaths of hundreds of protesters during the uprising that deposed him.
More than two years after Mubarak was forced from office, his fate remains a highly contentious issue. An order to transfer the 84-year-old ex-president back to a prison hospital from a military facility set off a noisy demonstration Wednesday.
Mubarak supporters blocked the road in front of the military hospital and forced a delay in his transfer, according to a security official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to reporters.
Mubarak remains in custody on new corruption charges, though a court ordered him released earlier this week before his retrial over the deaths of protesters.
The decision to transfer him back to Tora prison, where his two sons are being held before facing a corruption trial, came after the prosecutor ordered the formation of a medical committee to look into Mubarak’s health.
Mubarak appeared in court Saturday for the first time since his conviction in June 2012. After he was wheeled into the courtroom on a hospital gurney, he sat upright, grinned and waved to supporters from inside the metal defendant’s cage.
In January, an appeals court overturned a life sentence against Mubarak for failing to prevent the killing of nearly 900 protesters during the 18-day uprising in 2011. He was the first Arab leader to appear in a defendant’s cage and stand trial by his own people.
The new date for the retrial was set after the judge in the case recused himself last weekend.
The judge had ordered acquittals in October for 25 Mubarak loyalists accused of organizing a deadly attack in which assailants on horses and camels stormed downtown Cairo’s Tahrir Square during the uprising.
President Mohammed Morsi’s Freedom and Justice Party, a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, criticized the judiciary for several recent acquittals.
“The acquittals of corrupt and criminal Mubarak-era figures confirms that the revolution is not complete,” party spokesman Murad Ali said in a statement. He said the acquittals highlight “dysfunction in the judiciary system.”
Morsi and his government have had several run-ins with the judiciary over powers and edicts.
In an effort to boost the nation’s battered economy, some Brotherhood members have supported holding reconciliation talks with former officials toward return of stolen funds. The largely liberal and secular opposition has criticized such moves, saying Morsi has not taken needed steps to begin reforming the judiciary.
Activists and lawyers connected to Mubarak’s retrial say there is no guarantee that new evidence will be submitted in the case. They complain about a lack of a comprehensive transitional justice program to hold Mubarak and former regime officials accountable for crimes committed during his rule, as well as the killing of protesters.
Late Wednesday, Egypt’s prosecutor general ordered the arrest of 22 people suspected of forming and funding the so-called Black Bloc, masked young men who fought security forces during anti-Muslim Brotherhood protests over the past months.
The prosecution said in a statement that the suspects were accused of “forming a group with intention to commit terrorist crimes, violence, theft, murder” and a long list of other charges. No names were released.
The Muslim Brotherhood group has blamed Egypt’s liberal opposition of fomenting street violence, saying they want to destabilize the country and show that Islamist rule is weak. The opposition denies this. Maintaining that violence is a normal and expected result of political chaos.
Also Wednesday, a lower court in Cairo ordered the country’s prime minister to serve one year in prison and be removed from office for failing to implement a ruling on the privatization of a flax company. The court ruled that Prime Minister Hesham Kandil had not carried out a September 2011 court ruling invalidating the sale of Tanta Flax & Oil company to Saudi businessman Abdullah al-Kaaki.
The ruling can be appealed.
A separate case on the sale of the company, based in the city of Tanta north of Cairo, is to be reviewed by the country’s Supreme Administrative Court in May.
A spokesman for the Cabinet could not be immediately reached for comment.
The sale was completed under the Mubarak regime in 2005, well before Kandil became prime minister.
Previously, company workers filed complaints to prosecutors against one of Kandil’s predecessors for not enforcing the court’s decision.
Workers have been protesting against privatization of the company, complaining that the government’s policies had not changed despite the uprising. They also alleged that before the uprising, company administrators tried to bribe farmers not to grow flax in order to slow production, making the sale of the company cheaper for investors and easier for the government.