CAIRO (AP) — The retrial of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak resumed Saturday, with prosecutors requesting to present new evidence from a fact-finding commission’s report that claims the ex-leader had full knowledge of the extent of the violence used against protesters.
The new evidence could weigh heavily in the case, which saw one of the Middle East’s most powerful autocrats and his longtime interior minister in charge of police tried and sent to prison, only to have their sentences overturned.
The former president, who ruled over Egypt for nearly 30 years, is being accused of collusion in the killing of nearly 900 protesters in the first days of the January 2011 revolt that unseated him. He is the first Arab leader to be tried by his own people.
At the hearing, Mubarak wore a white jumpsuit and a pair of brown-tinted sunglasses. He sat upright on a hospital gurney in the defendants’ courtroom cage as he listened to a list of charges levied against him.
The case may hinge on the report by the fact-finding commission, which worked for six months collecting hundreds of hours of video and testimony. The commission was created by Mubarak’s successor, Mohammed Morsi, who made a campaign promise to bring former officials to justice.
It was not immediately clear what new evidence from the fact-finding report the prosecution wants to present at the retrial. Additionally, the judge has discretion to decide what evidence to accept.
Mubarak and his interior minister, Habib el-Adly, had been convicted and sentenced to life in prison for failing to prevent the killings of protesters. The verdict sparked mass protests because it did not stipulate who was responsible for the killing of protesters, and the sentencing was seen as largely politically motivated to calm public outcry at the time.
An appeals court in January then overturned their sentencing and ruled that the prosecution’s case — led by a longtime Mubarak appointee— lacked concrete evidence.
This time around a new prosecutor is in place and lawyers say they have new evidence from the fact-finding commission’s report.
Excerpts of the report have been leaked to The Associated Press. It found that police were behind nearly all the killings, using snipers on rooftops to shoot into huge crowds. The inquiry also determined that such deadly force could only have been authorized by security chief el-Adly with Mubarak’s full knowledge. Another part showed that Mubarak watched the uprising against him unfold through a live TV feed at his palace, despite his assertion that he did not know the extent of the protests and crackdown against them.
His former interior minister, who oversaw the country’s widely-feared police force for years, and six top police generals — found not guilty in the first trial — were also in the courtroom Saturday. They are charged with the pre-mediated murder of protesters.
Mubarak is also facing corruption charges in the same case. He and his two sons, Alaa and Gamal, are accused of squandering public funds and abusing their power to sell land in a Red Sea resort area to business associate Hussein Salem at below market price in exchange for five villas there. Mubarak and Salem are also charged with conspiring to export gas to Israel at below market price at a loss to Egypt.
Morsi’s cash-strapped government is eyeing a $1 billion reconciliation deal with Salem, who is in Spain and being tried in absentia.
All present pleaded not guilty to the various charges.
Out of the ten accused in the courtroom, el-Adly was the only to wear the dark blue prison suit of convicted criminals. He is serving sentences for guilty verdicts in separate corruption cases.
The 84 year-old Mubarak and his two sons are currently being held in Cairo’s Tora prison pending investigations into other corruption allegations.
At the Saturday session, presiding judge Mahmoud Kamel el-Rachidi repeatedly pleaded with participants to refrain from heated outbursts. At one point, lawyers of victims’ families shouted: “The people want the execution of the butcher!”
Mubarak’s two sons appeared to ignore the taunts, and instead grinned and chatted with one another from behind the defendants’ cage.
The former president raised his hand once to show he was present when the judge read out names. He spoke only once during the session, when the judge asked him if he accepted a request by two Kuwaiti lawyers to join his defense team. Mubarak deferred to his chief defense lawyer, Farid el-Deeb, who declined the offer.
Judge el-Rachidi takes over the case from a previous judge who recused himself after overseeing a controversial verdict that handed down acquittals to 25 Mubarak loyalists. They had been accused of organizing a deadly attack by thugs on horseback and camels against protesters during the uprising.
El-Rachidi spoke from the bench for several minutes during the session to describe the value he puts on impartiality, saying that he is 61 years old and wants to ensure he dies a just man. “None of you will be of any use to me when I am lowered into my grave,” he said.
He also said that the case file started with around 9,000 pages and has mushroomed to more than 55,000. He set June 8 as the date for the resumption of the trial.
Relatives of those killed in the uprising stood outside the courtroom, as did a small group of pro-Mubarak supporters.
Ramadan Ahmed, whose only son Mohammed was killed with a single bullet that cracked his skull during the crackdown on protesters, stood outside the courtroom carrying a picture of his 16 year-old.
Ahmed, who also serves on the fact-finding committee that wrote the report, said he has little faith justice will be served.
“What we have is patience. It’s the only thing getting us through this; that and God’s help,” he said. “We hope the judge really does feel he will face God one day.”