CAIRO – Egypt's highest appeals court on Sunday overturned Hosni Mubarak's conviction and ordered a retrial of the former president for failing to prevent the killing of nearly 900 protesters during the 2011 uprising that toppled his 29-year regime. A look at the potential impact of the decision:
— A retrial can produce a not-guilty verdict, uphold Mubarak's life sentence or reduce it. It cannot stiffen his sentence, however, because defendants cannot draw a heavier sentence when they appeal a conviction. Still, new evidence could lead to the deposed leader being convicted of ordering the crackdown on the protesters, not just failing to prevent it, a scenario that would go a long way toward appeasing victims' families.
— Also facing retrial are Mubarak's security chief, Habib el-Adly, who was in charge of security forces at the time of the uprising, as well as six of el-Adly's top aides — five for their part in the use of deadly force against the protesters and one for "gross negligence." The six top police commanders have been free since their acquittal in June.
— Mubarak, his two sons and a family associate, Hussein Salem, will also face retrial on corruption charges they were earlier acquitted of. The sons — onetime heir apparent Gamal and wealthy businessman Alaa — are in jail while on trial for insider trading and using their influence to buy state land at a fraction of its market price.
— For Mubarak's successor, Islamist Mohammed Morsi, a retrial is likely to be an unwanted distraction as he tries to restore law and order, and grapple with a wrecked economy, as well as the aftermath of last month's deadly debacle over a new constitution drafted by his Islamist allies and hurriedly adopted in an all-night session in late November.
— A retrial could also deny much-needed closure as the still-volatile country prepares for parliamentary elections in about three months which Morsi and his Islamist allies are determined to win. It could also revive calls for a deeper purge of those viewed as holdovers from the old era.
— The issue of the revolution's martyrs is a sensitive one in Egypt, with the families of the victims demanding retribution and compensation. They would be pleased to see Mubarak, el-Adly and the six top police commanders in the defendants' cage again, but there are no guarantees that they will be convicted of ordering the deadly crackdown.