Mubarak's court appearance in full health stuns Egyptians

CAIRO (AFP) - After months of rumours that Egypt's former president Hosni Mubarak was at death's door, footage of the toppled leader looking strong and defiant in court on Saturday stunned many who had cared little about his fate.

The 84-year-old Mubarak, who is being held at a military hospital in Cairo, has been treated for a heart condition, fractured ribs, fluid in the lungs, depression and high blood pressure, according to lawyers and official accounts. At one point last year, he was even declared clinically dead as he slipped into a coma.

There were questions over whether he would appear in court on Saturday for his scheduled retrial, along with his top security chiefs, for their alleged complicity in the murder and attempted murder of hundreds of peaceful protesters on Jan 25 to 31, 2011. On Saturday, however, Mubarak was in the dock, sitting upright and looking strong. Wearing sunglasses, he waved and smiled at his supporters, chatting casually with his two sons, Alaa and Gamal, who face corruption charges.

"I expected to see a sick old man, and I expected to feel sorry for him," said Cairo resident Heba Radwan. "But the pictures of him smiling and waving, they were so provocative." His demeanour was in stark contrast to the pictures of a pale and ailing Mubarak at the start of his trial in August 2011.

In the event, the retrial came to an abrupt end, with the main judge stepping aside and sending the case to the Court of Appeal, which will then refer it to a new circuit.

"Mubarak in top form," read the headline of the state-owned Al-Akhbar.

"I was furious when I saw him in the cage," said Mr Ahmed al-Sayyed, who works at a Cairo cafe. "I had forgotten about him. I didn't even watch the trial live. But when I saw him on television later, I couldn't believe the provocation."

In January, Egypt's highest court, the Court of Cassation, ordered a retrial for Mubarak after accepting an appeal against his life sentence, citing procedural failings.