Mubarak trial: judge withdraws and clashes erupt
The judge in the retrial of former Egyptian president Mubarak has withdrawn from the case and referred it to another court, abruptly ending the first session on Saturday.
Judge Mustafa Hassan Abdullah announced his decision at the start of the retrial at a police academy on the outskirts of Cairo, where the 84-year old former president had earlier been flown in by a helicopter.
The judge said he had decided to refer the case to the Cairo appeals court as he felt "unease" in reviewing the case.
Protests and clashes erupted both inside and outside the courtroom as the judge made his announcement.
Mubarak is facing retrial on charges of complicity in the murder of protesters killed in the uprising that unseated him.
Mubarak, wearing brown-tinted glasses, waved from inside the courtroom cage in his court appearance. He was airlifted to the court from a Cairo hospital. His two sons and former interior minister, currently held in prison for separate cases, were also in the courtroom cage.
Mubarak, his interior minister Habib al-Adly and six security chiefs are in the dock again facing these charges.
The toppled despot's sons Gamal and Alaa -- once symbols of power and wealth -- will also be retried on corruption charges. Another defendant, business tycoon Hussein Salem, is being tried in absentia.
The hearing is held at the police academy that once bore Mubarak's name in a Cairo suburb.
Three thousand soldiers and police officers were deployed to secure the court, in addition to 150 armored vehicles, Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim said, according to news site Egypt Independent.
Television footage showed Mubarak, dressed in white and wearing sunglasses, wheeled out of an ambulance on a stretcher and taken into Cairo's Police Academy. (Al Arabiya)
In January, Egypt's highest court, the Court of Cassation, ordered a retrial for Mubarak after accepting an appeal against his life sentence, citing procedural failings.
His original trial in August 2011 was a major moment for both Egypt and the region as it was the first time an Arab leader deposed by his people had appeared in court in person.
But his time, scenes of an ailing Mubarak being wheeled on a stretcher into a barred cage are unlikely to be repeated.
Mubarak, who turns 85 in May, has suffered several health scares and the state news agency even reported him clinically dead at one point as he slipped into a coma.
He is currently being treated at a military hospital in Cairo.
On Saturday, “armed Forces personnel would transport Mubarak from the military hospital to the court in a helicopter after a doctor has verified that he is fit to travel. The army would also guard the convoy transporting Gamal, Alaa and Adly to the court from Tora Prison,” Egypt Independent reported, citing security sources.
President Mohammed Mursi, who won elections that same month on the Muslim Brotherhood's ticket, had pledged new trials for former regime officials including Mubarak.
But Mursi's presidency has been plagued by unrest and deadly clashes between protesters and police, a revolt in the canal cities, sectarian violence and a devastating economic crisis.
"The country is largely unlikely to pay attention to the trial," said H.A. Hellyer, a non-resident fellow at the Brookings Institution and a columnist at Al Arabiya.
"There is the potential that the ruling party use the trial to deflect attention from the problems they are facing," he told AFP.