Supporters of ousted former President Hosni Mubarak celebrate the court… (Amr Nabil / AP Photo )
CAIRO — An Egyptian court granted an appeal by former President Hosni Mubarak and ordered a new trial into the killings of hundreds of protesters during the 2011 uprising, a move certain to inflame the political unrest that has upset the country’s democratic transition.
The ruling was a victory for the ailing Mubarak and his Interior minister, Habib Adli, who also won his appeal. Both men, who had been sentenced to life in prison, face other criminal charges and are likely to remain in detention until a new trial in the deaths by security forces of more than 800 protesters.
“The previous ruling was unfair and illegal,” said Yousry Abdelrazeg, one of Mubarak’s lawyers, who accused the judge in the first trial of political bias. “The case was just a mess and there was no evidence against Mubarak.”
No date has been set for the new trial.
The court’s decision comes amid turmoil over an Islamist-backed constitution and outrage over the expanded powers of Islamist President Mohamed Morsi. It means a bloody chapter in Egypt’s 2011 revolt will be revisited with the prospect that Mubarak, whose police state ruled for 30 years, may be absolved in a case that deepened the nation’s political differences and impassioned the Arab world.
Mubarak was convicted in June of not preventing the deaths of hundreds of protesters attacked by police and snipers during the uprising, which began on Jan. 25, 2011, and ended 18 days later when he stepped aside and the military seized power.
Mubarak argued that he had not ordered the crackdown and was unaware of the extent of the violence. A recently completed government-ordered investigation into the killings, however, reportedly found that Mubarak had monitored the deadly response by security forces in Tahrir Square via a live television feed.
The appeals court ruling came a day after prosecutors announced an investigation into allegations that Mubarak, 84, received about $1 million in illicit gifts from Al Ahram, the country’s leading state-owned newspaper. The former president has reportedly been in a military hospital since December after he fell in a prison bathroom and injured himself.
Last year’s trial riveted the nation with images of the aging Mubarak wheeled into the defendant’s cage on a stretcher, his arms crossed and his eyes hidden behind sunglasses.
(Special correspondent Reem Abdellatif contributed to this report)