A judge presiding over the retrial of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on charges related to the 2011 deaths of protesters withdrew from the case as it started Saturday citing “uneasiness.” Judge Mustafa Hassan said as the new trial started that he was feeling “uneasiness” about hearing the case and would refer the case back to the Appeals Court so it could name a new judge.
Mr. Hassan’s announcement came during a brief session of the new trial. During the session, Mr. Mubarak, 84, appeared in good health and high spirits.
Lying on a gurney in the dock, Mr. Mubarak waved several times as his two sons, Alaa and Gamal, stood next to him.
Mr. Mubarak faces charges of complicity in the killing of protesters during a revolt that eventually toppled him more than two years ago. His sons are charged with corruption.
The former President’s appearance was his first in public since June when a court sentenced him to life in prison. He is staying in a military hospital near Cairo.
Before Mr. Hassan’s announcement, lawyers for families of the victims had demanded in the courtroom that the Chief Judge resign from the case.
Initially, he quieted them pointing out that any such decision was solely within the court’s power.
“There are rules for this,” Mr. Hassan said. “You have to wait for the court’s decision.” Mr. Hassan was the head of a criminal court that last year acquitted all 24 defendants charged with masterminding an attack on protesters during the revolt against Mr. Mubarak.
On February 2 and 3, 2011, gangs of camel riders, who were allegedly hired by the defendants, used whips, axes and stones to attack anti-Mubarak protesters camping out in Tahrir Square in central Cairo. The case was dubbed the “Camel Battle.” Mr. Mubarak was sentenced in June to life in prison for failing to prevent the protester deaths.
In January, the country’s highest court accepted his appeal and ordered a retrial.
Mr. Mubarak’s Interior Minister, Habib al-Adli, and six former security chiefs also appeared on Saturday to face charges of involvement in protester deaths.
A fact-finding mission found that at least 846 people were killed and more than 6,000 injured during the police crackdown on the uprising.
President Mohammed Morsi, who took office in June, has repeatedly pledged to bring to justice officials implicated in abusing and killing protesters.