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A Cairo appeals court on Sunday overturned Hosni Mubarak's life sentence and ordered a retrial of the former Egyptian president for failing to prevent the killing of hundreds of protesters during the 2011 uprising that toppled his regime.

The ruling put the spotlight back on the highly divisive issue of justice for the former leader — and his top security officers — in a country has been more focused on the political and economic turmoil that has engulfed the country for the past two years.

Mubarak, who is currently being held in a military hospital, will not walk free with Sunday's court decision— he will remain in custody while under investigation in an unrelated case. The 84-year-old ex-president was reported last year to have been close to death, but his current state of health is unknown.

A small crowd of Mubarak loyalists in the courtroom erupted with applause and cheers after the ruling was read out. Holding portraits of the former president aloft, they broke into chants of "Long live justice." Another jubilant crowd later gathered outside the Nile-side hospital where Mubarak is being held in the Cairo district of Maadi, where they passed out candies to pedestrians and motorists.

The relatively small crowds paled in comparison to the immediate reaction to his conviction and sentencing in June, when thousands took to the streets, some in celebration and others in anger that he escaped the death penalty. Sunday's muted reaction could indicate that the fate of Egypt's ruler of nearly three decades may have in some ways been reduced to a political footnote in a country sagging under the weight of a crippling economic crisis and anxious over its future direction.


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