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Egyptian Judge Abruptly Steps Down From Mubarak Retrial

Ousted Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, waves from behind his son, Alaa, during the opening session of Mubarak's retrial in Cairo on Saturday.
Ousted Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, waves from behind his son, Alaa, during the opening session of Mubarak's retrial in Cairo on Saturday.

A Cairo courtroom burst into chants of "The people want the execution of the president" on Saturday after the judge overseeing former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's retrial withdrew from the case on opening day. NPR's Leila Fadel reports:

"The session lasted only seconds. Judge Mustafa Hassan Abdullah opened the trial, quickly recused himself and transferred the proceedings to the court of appeals for the case to be reassigned to a new court.

"Moments before, Mubarak was wheeled into the prosecution cage on a stretcher. He looked confident and proud in sunglasses, and he repeatedly waved to the courtroom. His sons, who are facing corruption charges, stood nearby, smiling and chatting."

Mubarak was on trial again facing charges of failing to stop the killing of protesters during the 2011 uprising against him. The life sentence he received from the first trial last June was overturned on appeal.

Before the trial opened, critics claimed that Abdullah would be a biased adjudicator after he acquitted 24 officials of charges that they sent horse- and camel-bound attackers through Tahrir Square to break up protests in 2011.

The Guardian reports Abdullah "resigned on the grounds that any judgment he made would be viewed suspiciously because of his previous involvement in trials of Mubarak-era officials." Mubarak remains in custody for now, and The New York Times says a retrial might be months in coming.

The news outraged the pro-Mubarak supporters outside the courtroom, while on the other side of the riot police, pro-revolution supporters welcomed the decision. Both sides, however, have grown cynical, the BBC reports, as frustration with the legal process in the transitioning nation overtakes the fervor.

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