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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 13 December 2018

Former Egyptian president Mubarak freed from military hospital

Ousted autocrat allowed to go home after acquittal this month in case over deaths of protesters during 2011 uprising against him.
Ousted Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak watches his supporters from the Maadi military hospital in Cairo during celebrations of the 43rd anniversary of the 1973 Arab-Israeli war on October 6, 2016. Mohamed Abd El Ghany / Reuters
Ousted Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak watches his supporters from the Maadi military hospital in Cairo during celebrations of the 43rd anniversary of the 1973 Arab-Israeli war on October 6, 2016. Mohamed Abd El Ghany / Reuters

CAIRO // Hosni Mubarak, the former Egyptian autocrat toppled during the 2011 Arab Spring, was freed on Friday from the military hospital where he spent much of the past six years in detention.

The release of the 88-year-old who ruled Egypt for three decades would have been unthinkable several years ago, but revolutionary fervour gave way to exhaustion and even nostalgia in the uprising’s chaotic aftermath.

Mr Mubarak had been cleared for release earlier this month after Egypt’s top appeals court acquitted him of involvement in the deaths of protesters during the 2011 revolt that ousted him. About 850 people were killed in clashes with the police.

Mr Mubarak was initially sentenced to life, appealed successfully for a retrial and was acquitted on March 2.

During his detention, Mr Mubarak remained defiant and denied wrongdoing. “When I heard the first verdict I laughed,” he said after his 2012 sentencing. “I did nothing wrong at all.”

Meanwhile several key activists in the 2011 uprising are now serving lengthy jail terms, and civil rights groups say hundreds of others have been forcibly disappeared.

The anti-Mubarak revolt ushered in instability that drove away tourists and investors and hammered the economy. His successor, Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Broherhood, was removed by the military after only a year following mass protests against his government. A severe police crackdown followed in which hundreds of protesters calling for Morsi’s reinstatement were killed. The following year, Abdel Fattah El Sisi, the former army chief who toppled Mr Morsi, was elected president.

Some Egyptians now believe they had more freedom under the Mubarak regime.

“Mubarak’s time was a lot better in all aspects,” said Ahmed Mohammed, 29, who was among the thousands in Tahrir Square calling for Mr Mubarak’s removal. “Honestly, I found that all of that was useless. ”

Mr Mubarak’s lawyer Farid Al Deeb said the former president had gone home to a villa in Cairo’s Heliopolis district.

Mr Mubarak’s health reportedly declined during his detention. He was briefly jailed but was transferred to the military hospital after he slipped in a prison shower.

“Mubarak’s trial lasted six years and public opinion became bored of it,” said Mostafa Kamel Al Sayed, an analyst and political science professor at Cairo University. “Many now consider that Mubarak’s regime itself was better than the current regime when it comes to freedom of thought and organisation. There was a wider space for the opposing opinion whether in papers or on TV.”

On Thursday, a court ordered a renewed corruption investigation into the former president, for allegedly receiving gifts from the state owned Al Ahram newspaper. He is also banned from travelling.

* Agence France-Presse