Mubarak could be freed after corruption case dropped

Egyptian court's move clears way for former president to be released from jail soon
Hosni Mubarak pictured back in office in 2006.
By Reuters
Mon 19 Aug 2013 07:09 PM

An Egyptian court dropped on Monday a corruption charge against Hosni Mubarak,
the president ousted in the 2011 uprising, a ruling his lawyer said would clear
the way to his release from jail soon.

Mubarak, who ruled Egypt for 30 years, was arrested soon after his overthrow
and became the first Arab leader to face trial. In scenes that captivated Arabs,
the octogenarian appeared in a courtroom cage to face charges that ranged from
corruption to complicity in the murder of protesters.

More than a year on, the only legal grounds for Mubarak's continued detention
rest on another corruption case which his lawyer, Fareed el-Deeb, said would be
settled swiftly.

"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," Deeb told
Reuters.

Without confirming that Mubarak would be freed, a judicial source said the
former leader would spend at least another two weeks behind bars before the
criminal court made a final decision in the outstanding corruption case against
him.

That case related to gifts that Mubarak is accused of accepting during his
presidency. Mubarak has recently repaid money equivalent to the value of those
gifts, meaning he could potentially be freed though the court could choose to
extend his sentence on other grounds or come up with new cases.

Mubarak, along with his interior minister, was convicted and sentenced to
life in prison last year for failing to stop the killing of protesters in the
revolt that swept him from power.

He still faces a retrial in that case after appeals from the prosecution and
defence, but this would not require him to stay in jail. Mubarak did not appear
at a hearing in the case on Saturday. He was also absent from Monday's
session.

Mubarak is being held at Tora prison on the southern outskirts of Cairo, the
facility where senior members of the Muslim Brotherhood have been detained since
they were arrested in a crackdown on the organisation that began in July.

The military removed President Mohamed Mursi, a senior Brotherhood official,
on July 3 after mass protests against his rule. Mursi, who was freely elected
but alienated many with his authoritarian moves, is in detention at an
undisclosed location.

He faces an investigation into accusations stemming from his escape from
prison during the anti-Mubarak revolt. These include murder and conspiring with
the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas. Mursi has not been formally indicted.

Mubarak's trial has continued despite the army intervention against Islamist
rule but, perhaps tellingly, the families of those killed in the uprising have
ceased to attend the court.

One lawyer who has acted for those families said the former president is
unlikely to be freed given the political divisions that have shaken the country
since the army overthrew Mursi.

Mohammed Rashwan told Reuters that there remained some pending legal suits
that could give the judiciary enough latitude to refuse Mubarak's release.

"This is bigger than a legal problem. This is a political problem because
Mubarak's exit at this moment would tip the situation in favour of the
Brotherhood. This is not a desirable outcome and one the current regime would
not allow," he said.

"If Mubarak comes out at this time, the Brotherhood will exploit it to the
utmost extent and claim that what is happening in Egypt is a return to the
former regime."

In June, shortly before the military toppled Mursi, an Egyptian court ordered
the release of Mubarak-era prime minister Ahmed Nazif because of a limit on
pre-trial detention in a case for which he had been held since the revolt.

He is the highest-profile Mubarak-era official to be freed in cases which
have failed to produce convictions that stick, prompting frustrated opponents of
the old regime to accuse the judiciary of dragging out proceedings.

If Mubarak is freed, it will be on a similar technicality.

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