An Egyptian appeals court has ordered a retrial for ousted former president Hosni Mubarak, given a life sentence during a highly publicized trial last year.
The atmosphere was charged inside the court room as the judge announced the appeal was being accepted in the case of the former president.
Mubarak was sentenced last June for conspiracy in the killing of hundreds of protesters during the uprising that ended his three-decade rule in 2011.
The judge says that after successful appeals, there will be retrials in the cases of Mubarak and his former interior minister, Habib al-Adly.
A crowd of Mubarak supporters, carrying his picture, chanted slogans in favor of the deposed president outside the courtroom.
His opponents, and families of protesters killed during the 2011 revolution, demonstrated nearby.
Saturday, Egypt's state prosecutor's office announced the former president was being charged in another case for allegedly accepting valuable gifts from a state newspaper. Analysts say that case may have been introduced in anticipation of Sunday's ruling, which could have prompted his release, pending retrial.
Mubarak was recently transferred from Cairo's Tura Prison to a nearby military hospital, after he slipped in a shower and broke several ribs. The 84-year-old former president has had a number of health crises in the months since his conviction.
Veteran Egyptian editor and publisher Hisham Kassem says the appeals court ruling to retry the former president was expected, since evidence presented to convict him was flimsy.
“It was clear from the start that the procedures and with the lack of evidence and the whole way that the trial went that basically, the judge had to resort to the charge of failing to protect the demonstrators under his watch, because nobody presented evidence to establish that Mubarak gave orders, or nobody managed to establish the chain of command up to Mubarak," said Kassem.
The former president's top attorney, Farid el-Deeb, told Arab media that the evidence against Mubarak was insufficient to convict him and that he should be released.
Analyst Kassem notes that a new trial will be based primarily on prior evidence.
“If new evidence appears, then it is introduced," he said. "But this is a retrial on existing evidence. Until somebody can establish that there is new evidence, they will be tried on the same evidence.”
A fact-finding commission, established by Islamist President Mohamed Morsi, insisted recently that Mubarak was aware of tactics used against demonstrators, thanks to a special television link in his office set up by the interior ministry.
But Egyptian news reports say former intelligence chief Omar Suleiman testified, before he died, that the crackdown on demonstrators during the 2011 revolution was prompted, in part, by the escape of dangerous criminals.