Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat—The retrial of former President Hosni Mubarak ended in chaos on Saturday after presiding judge Mustafa Hassan Abdullah recused himself from the case.
The judge referred the case to Cairo’s Court of Appeals, causing an indefinite delay, and sparking angry scenes in the courtroom. Meanwhile Mubarak supporters and opponents clashed outside the court.
Mubarak had attended what should have been the first session of his retrial, flanked by his sons Gamal and Alaa. He was flown by helicopter from a military hospital, where he is being detained. The former president appeared to be in better health than previous court visits, waving to supporters from the defendant’s cage.
Judge Abdullah’s decision to recuse himself from the case aroused just as much controversy as his initial appointment to oversee the Mubarak retrial.
Abdullah had previously acquitted a number of former Mubarak era officials of orchestrating the so-called “Battle of the Camel” at the height of the revolution, when thugs riding camels attacked pro-democracy activists in Cairo’s Tahrir Square. The judge’s decision was denounced by the Egyptian opposition, with many portraying him as a Mubarak sympathizer.
The judge said he was referring the case to the Cairo appears court as he felt “unease” in reviewing the case. However Egypt’s state news agency, SIS, reported that the judge had withdrawn from the case citing “embarrassment over the proceedings.”
Frustrated relatives of demonstrators killed in the 2011 uprising chanted “the people demand the execution of Mubarak” following Judge Mustafa Hassan Abdullah’s surprise announcement.
Mubarak is facing retrial on charges of being complicit in the murder of protesters killed during the Egyptian uprising. He was previously found guilty by an Egyptian court, however the country’s highest court—the Court of Cassation—ordered a retrial after accepting an appear against his life sentence.