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Egypt's ousted Mubarak back in court over murder of protesters in Arab Spring

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An image grab taken from Egyptian state TV shows ousted Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak sitting behind bars during his retrial at the Police Academy in Cairo on Saturday.

CAIRO -- Former president Hosni Mubarak was back in court on Saturday for a retrial on charges of complicity in the murder of protesters, reopening a case that has shown the difficulty of transitional justice in post-revolutionary Egypt.

Mubarak and his former interior minister, Habib el-Adli, were convicted and sentenced to life in prison last June for failing to stop the killing during the 2011 uprising that swept him from power.

The retrial was ordered after a court in January accepted appeals from the prosecution and the defense.

Mubarak, 85, sat upright on a hospital gurney as he was wheeled into a cage where the defendants appear. Dressed in white prison uniforms, his two sons, Alaa and Gamal, stood alongside him. They face charges of corruption.

Wearing dark, aviator sunglasses, the deposed autocrat raised his arm to confirm his presence as Judge Ahmed al-Rasheedy read a list of the accused. "Present," said Mubarak. He waved his arm in denial when asked by the judge for his response to the charges read out by the prosecution.

The session was broadcast live on state television.

Held at a police academy on the outskirts of Cairo under tight security, the retrial had been due to begin last month but was aborted when the previous judge recused himself.

Mubarak is being held at Tora Prison on the outskirts of Cairo. He remains in jail despite release orders because he faces charges in a separate corruption case.

Mubarak, Adli and four of his former top aides are accused of involvement in the killing of more than 800 protesters who died in the 18-day uprising. Two other Interior Ministry officials face lesser charges.

First ruler toppled in Arab Spring
Mubarak's imprisonment last June was a historic moment -- he was the first ruler toppled by the Arab Spring revolts to stand trial in person.

Ahmed Youssef / EPA

Eighteen days of popular protest culminated in the downfall of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak on Feb. 11, 2011.

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.

The prosecution had complained that the Interior Ministry had failed to cooperate in providing evidence.

Adli's four aides were exonerated due to the weakness of the evidence, and the judge convicted Mubarak and Adli on the grounds of their failure to stop the killing, rather than actually ordering it.

Outside the court, a small group of protesters gathered under a baking sun held aloft banners demanding justice.

"Your mother misses you, Ahmed," read one banner, referring to a demonstrator killed in 2011. A rival group of a dozen Mubarak loyalists held aloft pictures of the former president dressed in military uniform and business suits.

Many Egyptians have been frustrated by the failure of courts to bring officials to account for the violence during the uprising and for what they see as decades of corruption and police abuses preceding it.

On Wednesday, an appeals court refused the prosecution's appeal of a verdict that exonerated two dozen defendants over an incident during the revolt in which men on camels and horses attacked protesters in Cairo's Tahrir Square.