x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Release Mubarak, a second Egyptian court says

Ousted president cleared of taking gifts from the state-run newspaper and may be free today. Alice Fordham reports from Cairo

CAIRO // An Egyptian court ruled yesterday that Hosni Mubarak could no longer be detained in prison on charges of taking gifts from the state-run newspaper.

Judges issued the same ruling this week on charges of complicity in killing civilians during the uprising that deposed him in 2011 and the former president could be freed this morning, his lawyer Farid Al Deeb said.

Mr Mubarak's release from Tora prison, where he has been kept mostly in hospital, is likely to further inflame an already highly fractious situation.

"The army has brought back Mubarak's regime," one Cairo resident, Guma Abdel Alim, said yesterday. "Those who were elected by the people are now in prison."

The man who ruled Egypt for more than three decades had been jailed while charges of corruption and ordering the killing of civilians were investigated.

But his sole conviction was overturned on appeal and his lawyers say Mr Mubarak, 85, has spent the maximum permitted two years in jail without bail.

Mr Mubarak is being retried on the charges of complicity in the deaths of protesters in the uprising against him in early 2011, for which he was sentenced to life imprisonment in June last year. In January, an appeals court overturned the verdict and ordered a retrial.

He is also still being investigated for corruption. And in April, prosecutors announced a new investigation into allegations that he had stolen money from a construction fund.

Some lawyers argued this week that because some charges had been brought against him recently months, he could not be released until two years had passed since they were filed.

Their objections now look to be brushed aside.

The possibility of Mr Mubarak's release comes as the interim government installed after the removal of his successor, Mohammed Morsi, made two more arrests in its crackdown on Mr Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood.

The arrests, including that of the movement's supreme guide on Tuesday, were stepped up after security forces broke up two pro-Morsi protest camps in the capital last week. More than 1,000 people died in Cairo and in further violence across the country.

There has been an uneasy calm in Cairo over the past few days, but it is far from sure to endure. Supporters of Mr Morsi yesterday called for a Friday of Martyrs.

Mr Morsi was deposed by the military after a mass demonstration against him on July 3, and is now detained while charges of inciting violence against demonstrators in December 2012 are investigated.

One by one, senior leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood, singled out for strict control under Mr Mubarak and then rushed headlong to power after he was toppled, have been captured.

After the arrest of the supreme guide, Mohamed Badie, two more senior Islamist figures were held early yesterday.

Safwat Hegazy, a Salafist preacher who has been accused of inciting violence against the military, was captured near the Siwa Oasis in eastern Egypt, dressed as a woman in a niqab showing only his eyes, and having shaved off his beard.

After the fall of Mr Morsi, Mr Hegazy had sworn that rallies would continue until the deposed president was reinstated, and that his supporters would die if necessary.

Mourad Ali, a spokesman for the Freedom and Justice political wing of the Brotherhood, was arrested at Cairo airport as he tried to board a plane to Italy.


* Additional reporting by Reuters and the Associated Press