Egypt's Mubarak released from jail, put under house arrest

A picture taken on 25 December 2010 shows then-Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak waving during the annual conference of the ruling National Democratic Party in Cairo. (Photo: AFP)

Published Thursday, August 22, 2013

Updated at 5:05pm: Egypt's ex-president Hosni Mubarak left jail Thursday, after a court ordered him freed pending trial.

Mubarak was taken from Cairo's Tora prison by helicopter to a military hospital in southern Cairo, where he is to remain under house arrest.

On Wednesday, a court said Mubarak, who ruled Egypt for 30 years with an iron fist before being ousted in the 2011 uprising, could be granted conditional release pending trial in three cases against him.

But the government said it would place the 85-year-old under house arrest after his release, on the basis of Egypt's current state of emergency.

Mustafa Baz, deputy interior minister for prison affairs, was expected to send Mubarak's file to the prosecutor's office for confirmation that there was no outstanding basis for pre-trial detention.

The military hospital now hosting Mubarak has treated him in recent years.

The former strongman will not be allowed to leave Egypt and his assets remain frozen.

Mubarak still faces prosecution in three cases, including two charges of corruption and one for complicity in the deaths of some of the 850 people killed during the 2011 uprising.

Last year, Mubarak was convicted on the complicity and corruption charges and sentenced to life in prison.

But a retrial was ordered on the basis of procedural errors in the trial.

His next hearing is on Sunday, although he has not always attended court sessions in the cases against him.

Mubarak's release threatened to add a volatile new element to the political turmoil that has rocked Egypt in recent weeks.

"His regime was foul. He damaged the country a lot. Unemployment high, no services, no health, no education. This is not a good day for the country," said Hassan Mohamed, 66, an engineer.

Refilling juice cartons in a convenience store, Amr Fathi also expressed disappointment. "I'm not happy, of course. He oppressed us a lot back in the day," he said.

But some Egyptians were happy to hear Mubarak would soon leave Tora prison, where many of his enemies were jailed during his ruthless crackdowns on Islamists.

"He was a great man; he shouldn't be in prison. He is an old man," said Ibtisaam, 19. "Under Mubarak, we lived in safety. Now anyone can come up to us, thugs and all."

Nearly 1,000 people were killed in a single week between the August 14 dispersal of protests in support of ousted Islamist president Mohammed Mursi and Wednesday.

The ongoing political crisis meant it came as no surprise that the army-installed government would seek to keep Mubarak under house arrest, in a bid to tamp down tensions.

On Wednesday night, the army-installed government said Beblawi, who is serving as deputy military ruler under the state of emergency imposed in Egypt, had ordered house arrest for Mubarak.

"In the framework of the emergency law, the deputy military ruler ordered Mubarak to be placed under house arrest," a cabinet statement said.

Security forces continued their crackdown on Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood, arresting a Brotherhood spokesman, Ahmed Aref, early on Thursday, the state news agency reported.

It is likely to drag on, with the authorities vowing to wipe out "terrorism", and the Muslim Brotherhood refusing to give up the fight to bring Mursi back to power.

Brotherhood supporters have called on Egyptians to hold "Friday of Martyrs" marches against the military takeover.

A grouping calling itself The National Coalition to Support Legitimacy, which has been demanding Mursi's reinstatement, said in a statement: "We will remain steadfast on the road to defeating the military coup."

Mubarak's release from jail could reinforce the Brotherhood's view that the armed forces, led by General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, are trying to rehabilitate the old government.

The European Union stopped short of agreeing immediate cuts in financial or military assistance to Cairo on Wednesday, as the bloc's foreign ministers held emergency talks to find ways to help bring an end to violence in Egypt.

The decision acknowledges Europe's limited economic muscle in forcing Egypt's army-backed rulers and the Muslim Brotherhood supporters of Mursi into a peaceful compromise.

It also reflects a concern that abruptly cutting aid could shut off dialogue with Cairo's military rulers and damage Europe's ability to mediate in any future negotiations.

Egypt has said repeatedly it does not want foreign powers to interfere in the standoff with the Brotherhood.

"Egypt can never accept an interference in its sovereignty or the independence of its decisions or an interference in its internal affairs," said Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy in a statement after the EU talks.

"The only standard that rules Egypt's decisions is the supreme interest of the country and its national security."

(AFP, Reuters, Al-Akhbar)

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