Hosni Mubarak freed from Egyptian prison
Former president transferred to military hospital but will remain under house arrest
Deposed Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak has been released from prison. He was taken by helicopter from Cairo’s Tora prison to the armed forces’ International Medical Centre, a hospital northeast of Cairo, where he will remain under armed guard.
The state prosecutor gave written orders to the authorities at Tora prison, on the capital’s southern outskirts, to release Mubarak (85) an official in the prosecutor’s office said earlier.
The prime minister’s office earlier said Mubarak, who ruled Egypt for 30 years until he was overthrown in 2011 as uprisings swept the Arab world, will be placed under house arrest.
That decision was made under a month-long state of emergency declared last week when police stormed protest camps set up in Cairo by the Brotherhood to demand Mr Morsi’s reinstatement.
About 900 people, including some 100 soldiers and police, have been killed in violence across Egypt since then, making it the bloodiest bout of internal strife in the republic’s history.
In the latest violence, gunmen in a car killed an army major and a soldier on a patrol near the Suez Canal city of Ismailia, security sources said today. Two soldiers were wounded. The assailants escaped.
Life in prison
Mubarak 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 in the case, for which he has already served the maximum amount of pretrial detention. Mubarak was arrested in April, 2011.
This week, two court rulings in separate corruption cases removed the last legal grounds for his continued detention.
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 pretrial detention in that case.
The ailing former air force commander will not be allowed to leave Egypt and his assets remain frozen.
Mubarak’s release would play to the Brotherhood’s argument that the military is trying to rehabilitate the old order. The army-installed government casts its conflict with the Islamist movement as a life-or-death struggle against terrorism.
“This is the end. Mubarak will never be an important political player, but symbolically, it’s a victory dance by the reconstituted old state under the leadership of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces,” said Joshua Stacher, a political scientist and an Egypt expert at Kent State University in the United States.
He was referring to the military council that took over from Mubarak and ruled until Mursi became president last year.
Political upheaval has gripped Egypt since Mr Morsi’s removal by the army on July 3, just over a year after he was elected.
The military’s declared plan for a return to democracy has yet to calm the most populous Arab nation, where security forces impose a nightly curfew as they hunt down Brotherhood leaders.
The clampdown appears to have weakened the Arab world’s oldest and arguably most influential Islamist group, which won five successive votes in Egypt after Mubarak’s fall.
”Friday of Martyrs”
The Brotherhood’s ability to stage large pro-Morsi demonstrations has faded in the past few days. One of its spokesmen, Ahmed Aref, was arrested today, the state news agency reported.
Brotherhood supporters have called on Egyptians to hold “Friday of Martyrs” marches against the army takeover.
A pro-Morsi alliance called the National Coalition to Support Legitimacy said in a statement: “We will remain steadfast on the road to defeating the military coup.”
Alarmed by the bloodshed, the United States and European Union are reviewing their aid to Cairo, but Saudi Arabia, a foe of the Brotherhood, has promised to cover any shortfall. Gulf Arab states have already pledged $12 billion since Morsi’s fall.
EU foreign ministers stopped short of agreeing immediate cuts in aid to Egypt yesterday, in part because of concern that doing so could damage any future EU mediation effort.
An EU attempt to broker a compromise collapsed before security forces cleared out the Brotherhood protest camps.
James Moran, the EU’s ambassador in the Egyptian capital, described reconciliation prospects as a huge challenge.
“Passions are high, emotions are high. Things have to cool off a little bit,” he said, skirting a question on whether the Brotherhood is committed to terrorism, as state media contend.
“It would be good if this is not all painted one colour. There may be different strains of opinion within the Islamist movement,” he said. “One thing is for sure - the Islamist constituency is there, and you are going to have to find a way somehow of living with it.”
The government has bristled at foreign attempts to use aid or persuasion to nudge it to seek a political compromise.