Former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak goes on trial today for the second time on charges of complicity in the murder of protesters during the uprising that unseated him.
Egypt’s highest appeals court ordered a retrial in January after accepting appeals from both the defence and the prosecution.
Each cited different shortcomings with the trial, which ended with life prison terms for Mubarak and his interior minister but was criticised for the weak evidence offered by the prosecution.
Mubarak, former interior minister Habib al-Adly and four top aides are charged with involvement in the killing of more than 800 protesters who died in the 18-day uprising. Mubarak’s two sons, Gamal and Alaa, face retrial on charges of financial corruption.
Mubarak’s imprisonment last June was a historic moment; he was the first ruler toppled by the Arab Spring uprisings to stand trial in person.
But the case exposed the difficulties of attaining justice in a country whose judiciary and security forces are still largely controlled by figures appointed during his era.
Six senior interior ministry officers – two of them charged with lesser crimes – were acquitted. The prosecution complained that the ministry had failed to cooperate in providing evidence.
The judge convicted Mubarak and Adly on the grounds of their failure to stop the killing, rather than actually ordering it.
This time, the prosecution is expected to draw on the findings of a fact-finding committee established by president Mohammed Morsi last year. Britain’s Guardian newspaper published this week what it said were leaks from the report, alleging the military had been involved in torture, killings and forced disappearances during the uprising.
Ali Hassan, a member of the inquiry panel whose son was killed in the uprising, said the report should condemn Mubarak and the interior ministry officials. “The minimum punishment for them should be death,” he said.
But the former president cannot face the death penalty; under Egyptian law, he cannot receive a harsher sentence than he did during his original trial.
Mubarak was sent to Tora prison after being convicted last year and subsequently moved to a military hospital. He appeared at court hearings on a hospital bed, alongside his two sons.
While the sons were cleared of the charges in that trial, they remain in jail pending other corruption investigations. The retrial will also include a charge against Mubarak of improperly facilitating a natural gas deal with Israel.
Cases brought against other Mubarak-era officials have also failed to yield convictions.
“If we look at the various pillars of transitional justice, very little has been done on any of them,” said Mohamed Abdel Dayem of the International Center for Transitional Justice. “The things have been done have been sporadic, haphazard.”
Morsi’s decision to set up a fact-finding committee to probe the violence was welcomed as an attempt to assemble an independent picture of what happened during the uprising.
But critics say his failure to publish the findings raises questions. “Why would the facts be withheld? It is not a good omen,” said Abdel Dayem.
Ahmed Ragab, a lawyer and another member of the fact-finding commission, said failure to publish the report marked a setback “because it delays the state’s acknowledgement of crimes committed by the security forces against Egyptians.”
He said Morsi may be unwilling to publish the report because the security forces, largely unreformed from Mubarak’s days, are now “committing the same crimes.”