An Egyptian court on Saturday postponed its verdict in the murder retrial of former president Hosni Mubarak to November, in the latest twist in the legal battle surrounding the ousted autocrat.
Mubarak is accused alongside seven of his former police commanders of involvement in the killing of hundreds of demonstrators during the 2011 uprising that ended his three-decade rule.
An appeals court overturned his initial life sentence on a technicality.
The 86-year-old, brought by helicopter from hospital, was wheeled on an upright stretcher into the caged dock, dressed in the blue garb of a convicted felon and wearing his trademark shades.
After calling out the names of the defendants, with Mubarak responding with a raised hand, chief judge Mahmud Kamel al-Rashid said there had been thousands of case files to study, pausing to show the court footage of the reams of documents.
He said he had not found the time to finish writing the reasoning for the verdict.
“Therefore the court has decided to postpone its ruling to November 29,” he said.
Rashid said he had the discretion to delay the verdict, although Egyptian courts often pronounce rulings first and publish the grounds later.
Earlier police had set up roadblocks around the sprawling police academy where the trial is being held, and about a dozen protesters gathered in support of the ousted autocrat.
“I am here for Mubarak,” said Ahmed Said. “Enough injustice. He must be freed and receive honours.”
The court session took place in a very different climate from the heady days that followed Mubarak’s overthrow, which at the time seemed like a swingeing defeat of autocracy.
Mubarak’s successor, the Islamist Mohamed Morsi, was himself overthrown by the military and imprisoned along with thousands of Islamists amid a widespread campaign tarring the 2011 uprising as a sinister plot to weaken Egypt, a faded regional power.
Morsi, imprisoned under his predecessor, is now on trial with other Islamists over acts of violence committed during the anti-Mubarak uprising.
Youth leaders who spearheaded the anti-Mubarak revolt have been jailed for staging unauthorised protests after the June 2013 ouster of the divisive Morsi by army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.
Sisi, who won a presidential election in May, has emphasised law and order at the expense of freedom to protest, a popular stance among Egyptians fed up with the chaos and economic ruin of their experiment with democracy.
The police force, which Mubarak is accused of ordering to quell the 2011 uprising, is now feted in the largely pro-government media as it wages a deadly crackdown on pro-Morsi Islamist protesters and militants.
– ‘Justice in my life’ –
One newspaper editor, Ibrahim Eissa, a major dissident under Mubarak, testified at the retrial that it was perhaps foreign saboteurs and not police who were responsible for deadly violence during the uprising.
Mubarak’s former interior minister and co-defendant Habib al-Adli, who had also been sentenced to life, accused Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood and Palestinian militants of attacking protesters during the uprising to besmirch the police.
Mubarak — separately sentenced to three years in prison for corruption — told the court in August that at the age of 86 he was approaching the end of his life “with a good conscience”.
“The Hosni Mubarak before you would never have ordered the killings of protesters,” he said in August, vaunting economic achievements many Egyptians now remember with nostalgia.
Most witnesses — senior military and police officials who served under Mubarak — testified in camera in the retrial that began in May 2013.
Their accounts were reportedly favourable to Mubarak.
The same court will also deliver a verdict on corruption charges levelled against Mubarak and his sons Alaa and Gamal.
Victims of the anti-Mubarak uprising fear the changing political tide might rob them of justice on Saturday.
“Now there is a wave of defamation against the revolution and the youths who led it,” said Osama al-Meghazi.
On January 28, 2011, after protesters in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria left a mosque, police opened fire with tear gas and shotguns, blowing off Meghazi’s hand.
“It is important that I see justice in my life,” he told AFP.