CAIRO, January 16 (Shahira Amin for RIA Novosti) - Sunday’s news that a Cairo Court had granted Egypt's former President Hosni Mubarak and his Interior Minister Habib el Adli their appeals over their life sentences has drawn mixed reactions from an Egyptian public that remains divided over the original verdicts handed down in June 2012.
Mubarak's supporters celebrated Sunday's ruling, hoping a retrial will acquit the ailing 84 year-old former president who is now bedridden at a military hospital. His opponents meanwhile say they are "waiting for justice and want a stiffer sentence for the ousted autocrat."
Analysts also disagree over the possible outcome of the retrial of the two men, found guilty in June last year of "failing to prevent the killing of hundreds of protesters" during the 18-day uprising that toppled Mubarak 18 months earlier. Some observers expect not-guilty verdicts, which would allow Mubarak and his security chief to walk free. Others believe they could be found guilty of "ordering the crackdown on protesters," which would mean a heavier sentence.
The June 2, 2012 convictions fell short of the "Qassas" or "justice for the victims' families" demanded by the revolutionary youth-activists who led the revolt, and analysts say a harsher sentence would go a long way toward appeasing them.
Last year's acquittal of six senior police officers charged with killing protesters (due to the lack of evidence) and of Mubarak's two sons, Alaa and Gamal, on corruption both shocked and disappointed the opposition activists. They denounced the verdicts as "a sham" and accused the military generals overseeing the country's transitional period of being "former regime loyalists" and of "protecting the toppled leader and his aides."
The acquittals also raised doubts about the independence of Egypt's judiciary, which will be put to the test again in a few months’ time when Mubarak and his aides stand trial once again.
Sunday's ruling comes at a time when President Morsi is locked in battle with Mubarak-appointed judges. Last November, Morsi issued a controversial constitutional declaration giving him absolute powers and replacing the Mubarak-appointed Public Prosecutor Abdel Meguid Mahmoud with his own appointment – a move seen by judges as "a serious blow to the judiciary" and described by opposition political forces as "a power grab." He also ordered the retrial of Mubarak and his henchmen but later revised the decree so that "the retrials would only take place if new evidence came to light."
An independent fact-finding mission has since produced fresh evidence. Contrary to defense claims that Mubarak was not aware of either the killings or the extent of the Tahrir square protests, the fact-finding mission has reportedly determined that he followed the uprising minute by minute via a live TV feed at his palace.
Amid opposition calls for a 'second revolution' to oust the Islamist regime on the anniversary of the January 2011 mass uprising, Morsi's supporters believe the retrials could provide the Islamist President with the political opportunity he needs to shore up his image and boost his dwindling popularity after weeks of political turmoil.
Violent clashes in December between the President's Islamist supporters and opponents (mostly liberals and Christians) over an Islamist-backed constitution left at least 7 people dead and scores injured.
In addition to appeasing the victims’ families, who are unhappy with last year's verdicts, the retrials will also fulfill one of Morsi's key campaign promises.
Last June, he vowed to press new charges against Mubarak and his aides, while the Muslim Brotherhood issued an official statement warning that "the former regime is a threat to the revolution and its goals and would waste the blood of its martyrs and the sacrifices of its children."
Some analysts however, believe that the retrials may be too little, too late. Faced with a crumbling economy and a fragile security situation, Morsi may find he needs much more than a temporary public distraction from the country's pressing problems if he is to survive the sweeping tide of opposition protests that threaten to bring the country to a standstill and end his rule.
Shahira Amin is an Egyptian journalist, the former deputy head of Egyptian state-owned Nile TV and one of its senior anchors.