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Families gather to retrieve the bodies of loved ones at the Zenhoum morgue following the deaths of hundreds of Egyptians in clashes between the Muslim Brotherhood and the interim government in the past week.
Families gather to retrieve the bodies of loved ones at the Zenhoum morgue following the deaths of hundreds of Egyptians in clashes between the Muslim Brotherhood and the interim government in the past week.

Mubarak to be released in days, his lawyer says

A court has ruled that the former Egyptian president can no longer be held on corruption charges and his lawyer says his freedom is a formality.

CAIRO // Hosni Mubarak will be out of prison by the end of the week, his lawyer said yesterday.

A court ruled that the former Egyptian president can no longer be held on corruption charges and his lawyer says his freedom is a formality.

"All we have left is a simple administrative procedure that should take no more than 48 hours. He should be freed by the end of the week," Farid El Deeb said.

As the deposed president Mohammed Morsi faced new charges yesterday of murder and attempted murder, any attempt to release his predecessor would cause further uproar in Egypt and other lawyers said it was unlikely.

Public prosecutor Hisham Gaafar said charges of misusing funds for the upkeep of presidential palaces had been dropped but Mubarak would continue to be held until other corruption allegations were investigated.

"He was excused from one case, the one for the presidential palaces," he said. "There are still many other cases against him. He will be held on the basis of those cases."

An accused person who has not been convicted can be held for only two years. Mubarak has served that much time on charges of complicity in the killing of protesters during the 2011 uprising that deposed him.

He was convicted of those charges last June but is facing a fresh trial after the acquittal was overturned in January. His detention was also extended this year after investigators made further corruption allegations.

Lawyers disagreed yesterday whether the two-year period in jail would legally begin from the time the first charges were brought, or from charges brought more recently.

"Mubarak has been in prison for two years and until now no court has found him guilty in any of the charges brought against him," said Aya El Sawah, one of his defence team. "So if he were a normal person he would have to be released after the lapse of two years."

For many Egyptians the efforts to bring members of the old regime to justice have been among the more bitter failures of the past two and a half years.

"Of course a lot of people will be angry at this because they do not understand how a man who, according to the newspapers, stole millions of pounds and killed Egyptians can be free," said Ms Al Sawah. "But what I would like to say to them is that this is a state of law and if the law says that Mubarak has the right to leave, then he should leave."

Kamal Damati, an independent lawyer in Cairo, said: "I myself have seen the Mubarak case file and I know for a fact that there are certain charges that were brought against him quite recently. I don't understand how sufficient time has passed since those charges to allow him to be released under the law."

He predicted an uprising if the man who ruled for more than three decades was freed.

"I want to have faith in the judiciary," Mr Damati said, "but for the past year they have turned their backs on the presidency and on the state and who knows where their allegiance lies?"

In June 2012, Mubarak and his former minister of interior Habib El Adly were found guilty of not using their powers to stop the killing of Egyptians during the uprising and were sentenced to life in prison, which under Egyptian law is 25 years.

But charges that Mubarak and his two sons, Gamal and Alaa, received discounted villas from a business tycoon in exchange for political favours were dropped because they had expired under the statute of limitations. Six other senior security officials were also acquitted of any crime.

Then in January this year, the verdicts were overturned because of procedural errors. A retrial of the entire case began in June.

In Cairo yesterday, life seemed comparatively normal after the scared hush and heavy security presence of the past week, but tensions continued between the Muslim Brotherhood and the military-backed authorities that forced them from power after mass demonstrations on July 3.

The Anti-Coup Alliance, a group of supporters of Mr Morsi, made allegations, backed with photographs and maps, that the police and army had used excessive force is dispersing two sit-ins last Wednesday and besieging a mosque holding pro-Morsi demonstrators on Friday.

"We saw things we should not see in the dispersal of a peaceful sit-in," said Hany Nawara, a doctor, who wept as he recalled seeing young people killed before his eyes.

Egyptian authorities say some of the thousands of people at the sit-in were armed, and that in a week in which hundreds of people have died, including dozens of police officers, they have been fighting terrorism.


* Additional reporting by Reuters

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