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Wed 21 Aug 2013 04:45 PM

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Egyptian court orders release of Hosni Mubarak

Former president could leave prison later on Wednesday, according to judicial sources

Egyptian court orders release of Hosni Mubarak
Hosni Mubarak pictured back in office in 2006.

Deposed Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak will leave jail as early as Thursday after
a court ruling that jolted a divided nation already in turmoil seven weeks after
the army toppled Islamist President Mohamed Mursi.

Convening on Wednesday at the Cairo jail where Mubarak is held, the court
upheld a petition from his lawyer demanding the release of the man who ruled
Egypt for 30 years until he was overthrown during the uprisings that swept the
Arab world in early 2011.

Judicial and security sources said the court had ordered Mubarak's release.
His lawyer, Fareed al-Deeb, confirmed this as he left Tora prison after the
session. Asked when Mubarak would go free, he told Reuters: "Maybe
tomorrow".

Mubarak, 85, 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.

The ailing former president probably has no political future. But many
Egyptians would see his release as the rehabilitation of an old order that
endured through six decades of military-backed rule - and even a reversal of the
pro-democracy revolt that toppled him.

At least 900 people, including 100 soldiers and police, have been killed in a
crackdown on Mursi's Muslim Brotherhood in the past week, making it Egypt's
bloodiest civil episode in decades.

The United States and the European Union are both reviewing aid to Cairo in
light of the bloodshed, but Saudi Arabia, a foe of the Brotherhood, has promised
to make up any shortfall.

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
pre-trial detention in that case.

The court ruling removed the last legal ground for his imprisonment in
connection with a corruption case, following a similar decision in another
corruption case on Monday.

Mubarak's release might stir more turbulence in Egypt, where the army ousted
Mursi, the country's first freely elected leader, on July 3, saying it was
responding to the will of the people following vast protests demanding his
removal.

The generals have installed an interim administration to oversee a roadmap
they say will lead Egypt to back to democracy.

The authorities now portray their quarrel with the Brotherhood, Egypt's
best-organised political force, as a fight against terrorism and are jailing its
leaders, detaining the group's "general guide", Mohamed Badie, in Cairo on
Tuesday.

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which along with Kuwait have
promised Egypt $12 billion in aid since Mursi's ouster, have frowned on
Mubarak's detention all along. Arab diplomats said the conservative Gulf
monarchies had lobbied for the release of a man they once valued as a strong
regional ally.

Mubarak's trial, when he appeared in a courtroom cage, and his jailing also
affronted some Egyptian officers. One colonel, who asked not to be named, said
the treatment of the former supreme military commander had "tarnished the army's
image".

The United States, a close ally of Egypt since Cairo signed a peace treaty
with Israel in 1979, said on Tuesday that the crackdown on protesters could
influence U.S. aid. It denied reports it had already suspended assistance.

At issue is the future of about $1.23 million in US military assistance and
$241 million in economic aid to Egypt.

EU foreign ministers meet on Wednesday to discuss how the 28-nation bloc
might use its economic power to promote an end to Egypt's conflict, in which it
has sought to mediate.

They are likely to tread carefully, mixing expressions of concern over
bloodshed with limited, if any, changes in a 5-billion euro ($6.7 billion) aid
package promised last year to help foster the new democratic system, diplomats
in Brussels said.

Western nations were uneasy during Mursi's year in power, when he assumed
extraordinary powers to ram through an Islamist-tinged constitution.

Washington has not denounced the army takeover as a "coup", which under U.S.
law would force a suspension of aid. The ensuing bloodshed, however, has
dismayed the West.

US Senator John McCain, a former Republican presidential nominee who has
emerged as a strong advocate of suspending aid, said: "The slaughter of hundred
of Egyptians in the street is appalling to all of us.

"Now we should expect in return for our aid that the generals who are now
running the country schedule a change in the constitution, schedule elections as
soon as possible and the installation of a government that is representative of
the people. The present government is representative of no one."

The arrest of Badie, the Brotherhood's leader, is part of a wave of
detentions among the upper echelons of the organisation.

Murad Ali, a media adviser to the Brotherhood's political party, and Safwat
Hegazy, a fiery preacher, were arrested while trying to flee the country, state
media reported on Wednesday.

The Brotherhood said the crackdown would prove futile.

"The putschists think that arresting the leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood
and marring their image in the media will make Egyptians bow and give in to the
coup," it said.

"They have killed thousands, wounded thousands, arrested thousands but the
(people) are continuing in their peaceful revolution, rejecting the coup and
military rule."

Badie was charged in July with incitement to murder in connection with
protests before Mursi's removal and is due to stand trial on Aug. 25 along with
his two deputies.

On Tuesday, the state prosecutor ordered him detained for 30 days on the
charges of incitement to killing during anti-Mursi protests in November and
demonstrations in Cairo last month.

Footage released to local media showed the bearded leader sitting grim-faced
in a grey robe near a man with a rifle following his detention overnight on
Tuesday - images that seemed intended to humiliate the Brotherhood chief.

The Islamist group, founded in 1928, used its organisational muscle to secure
victory for Mursi in last year's presidential election. It says it has about a
million members among Egypt's 85 million people, as well as offshoots across the
Arab world.

Arabian Business: why we're going behind a paywall

Mick 6 years ago

1300, many children, dead from Al Assad nerve gas attack in Syria and not even making it to news here??