RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin.
In Egypt, former president Hosni Mubarak was wheeled on a stretcher into a Cairo courtroom yesterday for a retrial. It was his first public appearance since he was sentenced to life for failing to stop the killing of protesters, a verdict that was eventually overturned. Outside the courtroom, his supporters played drums, carried his picture and prayed that he would be released.
(SOUNDBITE OF PROTESTERS)
MARTIN: Meanwhile, relatives of the protesters killed during the uprising against Mubarak called for his execution. This new trial will come more than two years after Mubarak's fall, and the transition has been messy.
NPR's Leila Fadel now joins us from Cairo. Good morning, Leila.
LEILA FADEL, BYLINE: Good morning.
MARTIN: So tell us what happened in the courtroom yesterday and what comes next?
FADEL: Well, the session was extremely short. The judge came in. He recused himself from the case and referred it to the Court of Appeals. That Court of Appeals will now reassign the case to a new court. A lot of people who were worried about the outcome of this new case against Mubarak were worried that this judge was biased. He has been involved in cases in the past where he acquitted people accused of killing or injuring protesters. So it was welcome news to people who want to see an even more severe sentence for Hosni Mubarak.
MARTIN: We know that Mubarak has suffered some health problems recently. What did he look like, Leila, when he appeared in court?
FADEL: Well, he came to. Of course, he was wheeled in on his stretcher into the prosecution cage here in Egypt; they basically put a cage inside the court. And from that cage, he looked proud and confident, actually. He was smiling. He was waving at the court. Really, he seems like he was ready and he thinks he's going to get acquitted. You know, his son stood nearby, they were chatting and smiling.
MARTIN: There were obviously groups of people, both supporters and critics of Mubarak outside the courtroom. But what do Egyptians, just on the street, think about him now - now that it's been a couple of years since his ouster?
FADEL: Well, of course, a lot of people remember the brutality of Mubarak's regime. They blame him for the corruption, the bureaucracy that's left here and the struggle that's happened. But now, two years in - with all these economic downturns, with unemployment rising, with an elected president that many also accused of human rights abuses, with police brutality continuing - people are starting to look back at that time a little bit differently.
I just want you to listen for minute to young student we spoke to named Anesto Fie(ph).
ANESTO FIE: (Foreign language spoken)
FADEL: Now, he's saying Mubarak certainly was corrupt, but at least at that time the country was secure. And at that time when there were problems and there were disasters, there used to be a president that was a symbol. And now that symbol is lost.
So, many people now are starting to think, well, he was a dictator. He was brutal. But at least the country was secure; at least we could walk around in our neighborhoods and not worry about muggings; at least our state functioned. Nowadays in Egypt, people are struggling with day-to-day life. Police aren't that presence in the street. There isn't a sense of the security of the past.
MARTIN: and just briefly, Leila, what are the realistic expectations Egyptians have for this new trial?
FADEL: One of the biggest complaints about the last trial was that there wasn't enough evidence to convict Mubarak to a life sentence; that it wasn't a trial that really held him accountable for ordering the killing of protesters. He was previously convicted for failing to stop the killing of protesters, as was his Interior Minister, Habib al-Adli. So many people complain that they didn't think it was severe enough.
So people are hoping that this time around, this case will come out with a more severe sentence against him. Of course, his supporters, or people who see him in a better light, are hoping that he gets off.
MARTIN: NPR's Leila Fadel in Cairo. Leila, thanks so much.
FADEL: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.