CAIRO — An Egyptian appeals court on Sunday threw out the guilty verdict and life sentence against former President Hosni Mubarak on charges that he allowed the killing of hundreds of protesters. The court ordered a new trial.
Whether this was a victory or a setback for Mubarak was confused and contested. Both the prosecution and the defense had appealed the verdict, one side seeking a stronger verdict and the other an acquittal. Lawyers for the Islamist party allied with President Mohammed Morsi argued that a new trial with new evidence could yield a death penalty.
But other Egyptians reacted to the decision with exasperated sighs, seeing a parable of the country's fitful progress in its struggle to break free of its autocratic past.
Emad Shahin, a political scientist at the American University of Cairo, said Mubarak's unending case reflects Egypt's unfinished revolution, in which a leader of the old Islamist opposition has come to preside uneasily over the largely still intact institutions of Mubarak's former government, including the courts and the police.
Under Egyptian law, the ruling effectively rewinds the court proceedings to the original indictment of Mubarak, 84, in 2011. When the case is assigned to a new court, the judge will have broad latitude and can send the case back to prosecutors for further investigation and new evidence, or amend the charges.
Lawyers with Morsi's Freedom and Justice Party and other advocates of a stronger conviction said they hoped that in a retrial, the prosecutors would take advantage of the findings of a presidential fact-finding commission looking into the protesters' deaths.
More than 800 civilian demonstrators were killed, many of them by police and security forces, during the three weeks of mostly nonviolent protests that ended his rule.
Mubarak's first trial was conducted under the rule of the generals who seized power at his ouster, and have since ceded authority to Morsi.
The prosecutors issued an order Saturday that would allow them to go on detaining Mubarak for questioning even if the court threw out his conviction in the protesters' deaths.