Families of Egyptians killed in protests that unseated Hosni Mubarak reacted angrily in court on Saturday when a judge trying the former president over the deaths barred their lawyers from taking part in the case.
Mubarak, 85, was brought into the caged dock sitting up in a wheelchair, wearing a white gown and sweater and familiar dark aviator glasses. The former air force general appeared alert and in fair health, his hair black and slicked back, his hand on his chin as he listened to the few minutes of procedure.
"Present," he said quietly when his name was called.
While many Egyptians have lost interest in cases brought against their fallen "Pharoah" for oppression and corruption during his 30 years in power, relatives of those who died in the crackdown in early 2011 have grown impatient with judges they see as relics of the old regime.
Mubarak, his former interior minister and other senior aides are being retried for complicity in the murder of more than 800 protesters, having successfully appealed against convictions handed down a year ago. Also present in the dock, facing corruption charges, were Mubarak's sons Alaa and Gamal.
Some of several dozen people present in the Cairo court for the second session of the retrial taunted the defendants before the brief procedural hearing began.
"The people want to execute the killer," some of them chanted after one woman had called to Mubarak: "We love you, Mr. President."
There was an uproar when the presiding judge then ruled that he would not let lawyers for the families – the civil plaintiffs – take part in future sessions. As is common in Egypt, they had been involved in questioning and testing evidence in court.
Lawyers for the relatives said they would try to challenge that ruling. Though public access to the televised trial at the Cairo police academy is tightly restricted for security reasons, some relatives of victims would still be able to attend.
Mubarak and his interior minister, Habib el-Adli, were sentenced to life imprisonment last June but an appeals court upheld complaints about the quality of evidence. The retrial began a month ago. A third hearing was scheduled for Monday.