The Final Mubarak Trial [+INFOGRAPHIC]

The drama of the trial of former President Hosni Mubarak, which first began in August 2011 appears to finally have an end in sight. On June 4, Egypt’s highest Court of Cassation rejected a decision by the Appeals Court to drop the charges against Mubarak on technicality. Instead, it said Mubarak should be retried alone over the charge of intentionally killing of peaceful protesters during the eighteen-day popular revolt that ended with his ouster. The final retrial will begin on November 5, at a location that has yet to be determined.

In the same ruling, the court confirmed the acquittal issued by the Appeals Court for his two sons, Alaa and Gamal Mubarak, former Interior Minister Habib al-Adly and six top police generals on the same charges. The rulings are final and cannot be appealed. The court also rejected the prosecutor’s request to appeal the acquittal of tycoon businessman and close Mubarak associate, Hussein Salem, who was charged with corruption, saying the ruling was issued in absentia and could not be appealed.

The court room was packed with supporters of the former president, along with a few lawyers representing families of victims killed during the January 25 Revolution. When Chief Judge Anwar Gabri read out his verdict, rejecting appeals filed by the lawyers of the victims and those of the Prosecutor General, Mubarak’s supporters erupted in celebratory chants of “Long live justice” and distributed sweets. A lawyer representing the families of victims broke down in tears. The situation changed dramatically when the judge said that Mubarak alone would stand retrial for a third and last time. The same crowd cursed the “biased justice system” and tried to attack photographers and the lawyers representing the victims.

Mubarak’s trial on the charge of killing protesters has been a lengthy process. After close to a year, in June 2012, Judge Ahmed Refaatsentenced Mubarak and Adly to life in prison for failing to prevent the killing of protesters. The former president, his two sons, the six police generals and Salem were found not guilty of all other charges. When Mubarak’s appeal was accepted, the retrial began in May 2014. However, this trial lasted only six months. Judge Mahmoud Rashidi’s handling of the case was the cause of significant controversy. He gave Mubarak, Adly and the six senior police officers, extended hours to defend themselves, and at one point, tears were reportedly seen in his eyes as he listened to the testimony of one of the senior officers on trial, Adli Fayed, on how was only seeking to protect Egypt’s security. He also granted special access to the trial to one particular private satellite channel—Sada ElBalad—which is owned by Mohammed Aboul-Enein, a businessman who belonged to Mubarak’s now-defunct ruling party, the National Democratic Party (NDP).  The judge allowed Sada ElBalad to film case files in his office to reflect the effort he had to exert, as well as granting them unprecedented access to film from inside the defendant’s cage, as Mubarak read out a statement defending himself.

In the second appeal, the Prosecutor General emphasized the fact that the judge provided journalists with the final ruling before reading it out. They also said he used a computer expert to help prepare detailed charts on the evidence in the case, allegedly violating legal procedures. The Court of the Cassation, however, disregarded these issues, noting only what it considered a faulty justification used by Rashidi to drop the charges against Mubarak on a technicality.

This case is not the only legal trouble Mubarak has faced since his removal, together with his two sons. In all cases, but one, however, he has been acquitted. Mubarak was acquitted in two corruption cases: one in which he was accused of accepting five villas as gifts from the businessman, Salem, and another involving illegal profiting from gas exports to Israel. On May 9, the Appeals Court sentenced Mubarak and his sons in another corruption case in which they were accused of abusing their power and using public money to renovate presidential palaces and other privately-owned homes. The Court ordered a fine of 125 million Egyptian pound ($ 16 million) and sentenced Mubarak and his two sons to three years. Alaa and Gamal were released because they had already served the maximum pre-trial detention period. After the first few weeks they spent outside prison since they were first arrested in April 2011, Gamal and Alaa were taken back to jail, reportedly until they pay the fine. Mubarak remains at a military hospital in Maadi, awaiting his final retrial.

TIMELINE: Key dates in the Mubarak trials. (Click on the infographic to enlarge it)

Essam Batran, the lawyer representing Adly said that, following the ruling confirming the innocence of his client, “We will look into legal means to seek compensation for the damage done to Adly’s reputation. General Adly spent four years in prison over false charges.” Adly, also facing multiple charges, was only convicted on charges of abuse of power. The court said he had forced police conscripts to build his private villa in 2013, and sentenced him to three years in prison.

Mubarak’s supporters have considered the army’s removal of former President and Muslim Brotherhood leader, Mohamed Morsi, on July 3, 2013, vindication for his reputation. They also believe that Morsi’s removal affirms Mubarak’s hardline policies against the country’s largest political Islamic group. In private television channels owned by Mubarak supporters, the January 25 Revolution is referred to as a “conspiracy,” and a disaster, while they stress their support for current President Abdel-Fatah Sissi. On the other hand, while the acquittals granted to Mubarak, his sons and Adly will never allow them to restore the privileges they enjoyed for decades, they have deepened a prevailing feeling among supporters of the January 25 Revolution that the former Mubarak regime is making a comeback.

Mubarak’s opponents have argued since the beginning of his first trial in 2011 that the former president was only facing minor charges, claiming that security bodies never truly provided evidence required to convict him, his sons or the other senior police officers. This was later confirmed by prosecutors during Mubarak’s first trial , when they accused intelligence and security bodies of failing to provide the evidence that would have been crucial in convicting the defendants.

Expectations for the retrial don’t differ. Mubarak’s prominent lawyer, Farid al-Deeb told the private daily, Al-Masryal-Youm he was “certain” that the Court of Cassation would order the acquittal of his client when the last leg of his lengthy trial opens. He said the judge ordered Mubarak’s retrial over purely procedural issues after he rejected the argument made by the Appeals Court that Mubarak should be acquitted on a technicality. The court had ruled that, because the prosecution added Mubarak’s name as a defendant to the case two months after Adly and his six associates, they had made the “implicit” decision that there were no grounds to try him. Yasser Ahmed Hassan, a lawyer representing the family of one of the victims killed during the January 25 revolt said he was not happy with the ruling. He shared Deeb’s view that Mubarak will most likely be found not guilty upon retrial. “When the Court of Cassation finds all other defendants in the case not guilty, including the original defendants such as Adly and the officers, it is mostly expected that Mubarak will also be found not guilty,” Hassan said.

Khaled Dawoud is currently Assistant Editor-in-Chief of Al-Ahram Weekly, an English language weekly published by Egypt’s oldest news establishment, Al-Ahram. He is also the official spokesman of social-liberal Al-Dostour Party established by Nobel Peace Prize Winner Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei. 

Image: Photo: Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak waves to his supporters as he returns to Maadi military hospital in Cairo November 29, 2014 (Reuters/Asmaa Waguih)