Mubarak's new trial could answer a key question

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 14, 2013 at 3:53 pm •  Published: January 14, 2013
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CAIRO (AP) — Hosni Mubarak's new trial may resolve key questions unanswered in his first one: Who ordered the crackdown that left some 900 protesters dead and who pulled the trigger?

But the answers could complicate the new president's efforts to stabilize Egypt and deal with its economic woes since they might bring pressure to go after still powerful figures in the security forces.

Mubarak and former Interior Minister Habib el-Adly were sentenced to life in prison in June for failing to prevent the killings during the 18-day revolution in 2011 that toppled the leader's 29-year regime. Standing trial with them were six police generals, five who faced the same charges, while the sixth was accused of gross negligence. All six were acquitted.

The ruling raised widespread public anger over what was seen as a shoddy prosecution case. Many believed Mubarak should have been convicted for directly ordering the lethal crackdown.

The presiding judge of that first trial said the prosecution's case lacked concrete evidence and failed to prove the protesters were killed by the police, indirectly giving credence to the testimony of top Mubarak-era officials that "foreigners" were behind the slayings between Jan. 25 and Feb. 1, 2011.

Nearly 100 police officers have been brought to trial in a string of cases over the nearly two years since Mubarak's Feb. 11, 2011, ouster. All were acquitted or received suspended sentences on charges of killing and wounding protesters, a trend that has angered those behind the uprising who say authoritarian rule cannot truly be ended without dismantling what is left of the Mubarak regime, particularly in the large police force and pervasive security agencies.

On Sunday, Egypt's main appeals court overturned the life sentences against Mubarak and el-Adly and ordered a new trial for the two. It also granted the prosecution's request to overturn the acquittals of Mubarak, his two sons and an associate of the former president, Hussein Salem, on corruption charges. Salem was tried in absentia and remains at large. Six police generals who were found not guilty also will be tried again.

No date has been set for the new trial and no word on whether they would be all be tried together or separately.

Mubarak's supporters cheered the decision, which came in response to an appeal by the former leader's lawyers.

But the outcome of the new trial could bring a new setback for the 84-year-old ousted leader.

If convicted again, the life sentence passed against Mubarak and el-Adly would be upheld. They could also have their sentence reduced or even be acquitted.

This time, the case could be boosted by new evidence contained in a confidential report by a fact-finding mission appointed by Mubarak's successor, Islamist President Mohammed Morsi.

Ahmed Ragheb, a prominent rights lawyers and a member of the fact-finding mission, said the report has established the use of deadly firearms by the police against the protesters.

That finding, if substantiated in the proceedings, would bring responsibility for the crackdown closer to Mubarak and el-Adly.

The report has also found that Mubarak, contrary to what his defense lawyers have said all along, was fully aware of the extent of the uprising and how security forces dealt with it though a live television feed into his palace.

"This will be a totally new and unrestricted trial in which any new evidence or witness testimony will be admitted, including the report by the fact-finding mission," Ragheb told The Associated Press.

While Mubarak and el-Adly are not likely to draw a heavier sentence, like the death penalty, the retrial could lead to the conviction of the six generals, whose acquittal was a surprise given the key positions they held at the time of the uprising. The six include the commander of the riot police, the security chiefs of Cairo and its twin province of Giza, the head of general security and the director of the feared state security agency.