CAIRO (Reuters) - Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak will face a second and final retrial over the killing of protesters during the 2011 uprising that ended his 30-year rule, a high court said on Thursday.
Mubarak, 87, was originally sentenced to life in prison in 2012 for conspiring to murder 239 demonstrators, sowing chaos and creating a security vacuum during an 18-day revolt which began in Jan. 2011, but an appeals court ordered a retrial.
In that retrial, an Egyptian court in November dropped its case against him but the public prosecution appealed the decision.
On Thursday, Judge Anwar Gabri accepted the prosecution’s appeal and said Mubarak would be tried again on Nov. 5 by the high court. He was not present at the court.
The ruling was seen as a triumph of sorts for opponents of Mubarak who perceive his treatment by the courts as too lenient.
“I was sure of this ruling because there were many violations by the criminal court (which dropped the case). It confirms that the January revolution is claiming back its right,” said Yasser Sayed Ahmed, a lawyer for victims of the violence during the uprising.
Lawyers told Reuters the court on Thursday upheld other cases that cleared Mubarak and his sons of graft charges. It also upheld a previous ruling that cleared Mubarak’s former interior minister, Habib al-Adly, and six aides. The defendants had denied the charges.
But for some of Mubarak’s opponents, the ruling did not go far enough.
“Today’s ruling was issued with a final acquittal for Mubarak’s regime over the killing of protesters under the leadership of Adly. Mubarak’s retrial is just a red herring,” Shadi El Ghazaly Harb, a prominent anti-Mubarak activist, said on his Facebook account.
Hundreds of people died when security forces clashed with protesters in the weeks before Mubarak was forced from power.
Many Egyptians who lived through Mubarak’s rule view it as a period of autocracy and crony capitalism. His overthrow led to Egypt’s first free election, which brought in Islamist President Mohamed Mursi.
But Mursi only lasted a year in office after mass protests against his rule in 2013 prompted an overthrow by then army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who later went on to win a presidential election last year.
Sisi has since launched a crackdown on Mursi and his Muslim Brotherhood. Authorities have jailed thousands of Brotherhood supporters. Mursi himself may be facing a death sentence after a court sought to impose it on him.
By contrast, Mubarak-era figures are slowly being cleared of charges and a series of laws limiting political freedoms have raised fears that the old leadership is regaining influence.
Supporters of Mubarak first erupted in applause because they thought he would not face another retrial but many later dissolved in tears and yelled at the judge’s ruling.
“Egypt will never see stability as long as Mubarak is treated unfairly,” said Aseela Abdelmoty.
Mubarak, who ruled Egypt with an iron first, has already spent at least three years in prison for other cases.
Last month an Egyptian court sentenced the former ruler and his two sons to three years in jail without parole in the retrial of a corruption case.
The U.S.-backed Egyptian government says it is committed to democracy, and large-scale unrest in the Arab world’s most populous country has ended.
But Sinai-based Islamist militants have launched an insurgency after Mursi was ousted and have killed hundreds of police and soldiers. Two tourism police were killed on Wednesday on a road near the Giza Pyramids.
The government does not make a distinction between such groups and the Brotherhood, which has been banned as a terrorist organization. The Brotherhood denies any link to recent violence and maintains it remains committed to peaceful activism.
On Thursday, a court in the southern province of Sohag sentenced 51 suspected Brotherhood supporters to between three and 10 years in jail over the killing of four people, including a police officer at a protest in 2014, judicial sources said. Three others were acquitted.
Additional reporting by Omar Fahmy,; Writing by Yara Bayoumy; Editing by Angus MacSwan