Amr Nabil, Associated Press
CAIRO — The judge in Hosni Mubarak's retrial recused himself at the start of the first session on Saturday, citing a conflict of interest as the former Egyptian president appeared in court for the first time in 10 months grinning and waving to supporters.
The recusal threw the case deeper into disarray after an appeals court in January overturned a life sentence for Mubarak on a conviction for failing to prevent the killings of protesters during the 2011 uprising that ousted him.
The appeals court granted Mubarak a retrial after ruling that in the first trial, the prosecution's case lacked concrete evidence and failed to prove that protesters were killed by the police during the bloodiest days of the revolt. Some 900 people were killed in the 18-day uprising, most of them in the initial days.
Hoda Nasrallah, a rights lawyer representing 65 victims' families in the case, said there is no certainty that the prosecution will provide new evidence this time around to back up the charges.
The judge in the first trial criticized the prosecution for failing to provide evidence that police killed protesters. Protesters accused attorney general's office of shoddy work in collecting evidence. The attorney general at the time was a Mubarak-appointee who has since been replaced.
"The investigations took place in just one month, which is not enough time to review all the cases of killings across Egypt," Nasrallah said. "There are reports in the media that there will be new evidence submitted, but we're waiting to see if that is true."
Mubarak's first trial took place in a charged atmosphere that eclipsed the legal nuances of the case and led to what many saw as a politically motivated verdict aimed at calming a public outcry for justice after nearly 30 years of authoritarian rule.
Rumors had swirled several times in the past year that Mubarak was near death. However, the 84-year-old appeared upbeat in his first court appearance since his conviction in June 2012.
After being wheeled into the courtroom on a hospital gurney, he sat upright and grinned and waved to his supporters from inside the metal defendant's cage. His eyes were shaded behind brown-tinted glasses.
Mubarak's two sons, Alaa and Gamal, and his former Interior Minister Habib el-Adly were in the cage with him. They are currently imprisoned in separate cases. El-Adly, who was in charge of police during the uprising, was convicted of the same charges as Mubarak in his first trial and also sentenced to life in prison. His sentence was also overturned by the appeals court.
Mubarak was airlifted by a military helicopter to the court while his two sons and el-Adly were driven from Tora prison in the outskirts of Cairo.
The session lasted only a few minutes, ending after Judge Mostafa Hassan recused himself and referred the case to an appeals court to appoint another judge. He did not explain the conflict of interest behind the decision.
As he took the bench, some lawyers shouted, demanding that he remove himself from the case.
"Sit until you hear what the court's decision is," the judge responded.
Immediately after, he announced that the case would be sent to an appeals court. Some lawyers began chanting: "The people demand the execution of the ousted president!"
Local media reports had suggested Hassan might transfer the case to another judge. In October, he caused an uproar among political activists when he acquitted 25 Mubarak loyalists accused of organizing a deadly Camel Battle attack during the uprising. In the attack, assailants on horses and camels stormed downtown Cairo's Tahrir Square, the epicenter of the protests.
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