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Mubarak to Face Fresh Evidence in Retrial Over Protester Deaths

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May 11 (Bloomberg) -- Egyptian prosecutors said they would present fresh evidence against Hosni Mubarak as the ousted president went on retrial over his alleged role in the deaths of about 850 protesters during the January 2011 uprising.

In the resumption of a case that has become emblematic of Egypt’s stunted transition to democracy, Mubarak appeared in court in Cairo today on a stretcher, sitting up and wearing sun glasses. The former ruler of Egypt for about three decades was joined in a metal cage in the courtroom by his long-time interior minister, Habib El-Adli, his two sons Alaa and Gamal and six former security officials who are also being retried.

Mubarak and El-Adli face charges of complicity in the protester killings. Separately, the former president and his sons faced corruption-related charges detailed by the prosecution. All the defendants denied the charges against them.

At the start of the hearing, prosecutors said they would include new evidence gathered from “complimentary investigations” conducted after a report issued by a fact-finding commission that looked into the deaths of the protesters. The court later adjourned the hearing until June 8.

The retrial, a replay of the case that first opened in August 2011, is viewed by the relatives of those killed as evidence that justice is still being denied more than two years after the uprising that set Egypt on the troubled path to democracy.

Economic Challenge

Since then, the economy has limped along at what the International Monetary Fund says is the slowest pace in two decades, and President Mohamed Mursi has faced accusations by secularists and youth activists of ignoring the nation’s needs while bolstering the strength of the Muslim Brotherhood organization from which he hailed.

Mursi’s government is grappling with an economy increasingly squeezed as a $4.8 billion IMF loan -- long-delayed -- remains elusive, leaving Egypt dependent on deposits and other assistance from fellow Arab states, notably Qatar.

The political fray has weighed on the country’s sovereign credit rating, which has been pushed deeper into junk status by ratings companies. The most recent cut came from Standard & Poor’s on May 9, with S&P saying the country’s ability to meet its fiscal targets and ease external pressures has deteriorated.

The hearing follows a court decision in January overturning a life sentence handed down against Mubarak and El-Adli in the protesters’ case. The new trial began April 13, only to be halted minutes later after a judge stepped down from the case.

Egypt Polarized

Mubarak’s retrial comes at a delicate time for Egypt, which has seen polarization deepen amid occasional violent clashes between Islamists and secularists. Adding to the confusion is that no fixed date has been set for parliamentary elections slated to have begun last month, while the arrest yesterday of a leading youth movement leader marked the latest move against Mursi critics.

Prosecutors today ordered the release of Ahmed Maher, the co-founder of the April 6 youth group that had initially backed Mursi’s presidential run, pending investigation into allegations including insulting police, the state-run Middle East News Agency reported.

The first Mubarak trial, in which he was charged with complicity in the killing of protesters, frequently descended into chaos, with fistfights erupting in the courtroom. He was sentenced in June last year for failing to prevent the killings, a verdict that triggered protests with the victims’ lawyers and their families criticizing the prosecution’s evidence as weak and hastily gathered.

To contact the reporters on this story: Tarek El-Tablawy in Cairo at teltablawy@bloomberg.net; Mariam Fam in Cairo at mfam1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at barden@bloomberg.net

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