Cairo - The retrial of former Egyptian president Hosni
Mubarak begins on Saturday in Cairo, but the ousted strongman's fate has been
eclipsed by the deadly turmoil and economic woes gripping the country.
Mubarak, his interior minister Habib al-Adly and six
security chiefs are to face court again over their complicity in the murder and
attempted murder of hundreds of peaceful protesters on January 25-31 2011.
His sons Gamal and Alaa - once symbols of power and wealth -
will be retried on corruption charges along with their father. Business tycoon
Hussein Salem is being tried in absentia.
The hearing will be held at the police academy that once
bore Mubarak's name in a Cairo suburb, and a group of staunch supporters have
said on social media websites that they will be there to stand by their former
The initial trial in August 2011 was a big moment for the
country and the region because it was the first time an Arab leader deposed by
his people appeared personally in court.
But the drama of those first days, which saw an ailing
Mubarak wheeled into court on a stretcher, has since fizzled.
There had been dozens of newspaper columns and talk show
episodes dedicated to what was dubbed "the trial of the century".
This time round, there is scant mention of Mubarak in the
press or on television or even in private, save for the fact that earlier this
week the public prosecutor extended his detention on corruption charges.
Mubarak, who turns 85 in May, has suffered several health
scares and the state news agency even reported him clinically dead at one point
as he slipped into a coma.
He is currently being treated at a military hospital in
Devastating economic crisis
In January, Egypt's highest court, the Court of Cassation,
ordered a retrial for Mubarak after accepting an appeal against his life
sentence, citing procedural failings.
Adly had also been sentenced to life over his involvement in
the deaths of the protesters, but controversially his security chiefs had been
acquitted, sparking widespread anger and protests after the verdict in June.
President Mohammed Morsi, who won elections last June on the
Muslim Brotherhood's ticket, had pledged new trials for former regime
officials, including Mubarak, implicated in the protesters' deaths.
But Morsi's presidency has been plagued by unrest and deadly
clashes between protesters and police, a revolt in the canal cities, sectarian
violence and a devastating economic crisis, in what many fear is bringing Egypt
to the brink of chaos.
"The country is largely unlikely to pay attention to
the trial," said H.A Hellyer, a non-resident fellow at the Brookings
"There is the potential that the ruling party use the
trial to deflect attention from the problems they are facing," Hellyer
But despite the fact that what happens to Mubarak seems of
little relevance to many, there is still widespread anger over the fact that no
one has been held accountable for nearly 900 deaths during the 18-day uprising.
Mubarak's epic fall from power, from the dictatorial head of
the Arab world's most populous nation to a defendant behind bars, was for many
a promising sign the revolution which toppled him was on the right track.
But the case against the former president verged on the
farcical, with patchwork evidence and prosecution witnesses exonerating the
defendants, according to legal experts.