Egyptian court orders Hosni Mubarak's release

2013-08-21 16:15

Cairo – Deposed Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak will leave jail as early as tomorrow after a court ruling that jolted a divided nation already in turmoil seven weeks after the army toppled Islamist President Mohamed Morsi.

Convening today at the Cairo jail where Mubarak is held, the court upheld a petition from his lawyer demanding the release of the man who ruled Egypt for 30 years until he was overthrown during the uprisings that swept the Arab world in early 2011.

Judicial and security sources said the court had ordered Mubarak’s release. His lawyer, Fareed al-Deeb, confirmed this as he left Tora prison after the session. Asked when Mubarak would go free, he told Reuters: “Maybe tomorrow”.

Mubarak (85) was sentenced to life in prison last year for failing to prevent the killing of demonstrators. But a court accepted his appeal earlier this year and ordered a retrial.

The ailing former president probably has no political future. But many Egyptians would see his release as the rehabilitation of an old order that endured through six decades of military-backed rule – and even a reversal of the pro-democracy revolt that toppled him.

At least 900 people, including 100 soldiers and police, have been killed in a crackdown on Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood in the past week, making it Egypt’s bloodiest civil episode in decades.

The United States and the European Union are both reviewing aid to Cairo in light of the bloodshed, but Saudi Arabia, a foe of the Brotherhood, has promised to make up any shortfall.

Mubarak is still being retried on charges of complicity in the killing of protesters during the revolt against him, but he has already served the maximum pre-trial detention in that case.

The court ruling removed the last legal ground for his imprisonment in connection with a corruption case, following a similar decision in another corruption case on Monday.

Mubarak’s release might stir more turbulence in Egypt, where the army ousted Morsi, the country’s first freely elected leader, on July 3, saying it was responding to the will of the people following vast protests demanding his removal.

The generals have installed an interim administration to oversee a roadmap they say will lead Egypt to back to democracy.

The authorities now portray their quarrel with the Brotherhood, Egypt’s best-organised political force, as a fight against terrorism and are jailing its leaders, detaining the group's “general guide”, Mohamed Badie, in Cairo yesterday.

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which along with Kuwait have promised Egypt $12 billion (R122 billion) in aid since Morsi’s ouster, have frowned on Mubarak’s detention all along.

Arab diplomats said the conservative Gulf monarchies had lobbied for the release of a man they once valued as a strong regional ally.

Mubarak’s trial, when he appeared in a courtroom cage, and his jailing also affronted some Egyptian officers. One colonel, who asked not to be named, said the treatment of the former supreme military commander had “tarnished the army’s image”.

The United States, a close ally of Egypt since Cairo signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1979, said yesterday the crackdown on protesters could influence US aid. It denied reports it had already suspended assistance.

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