Egypt's Hosni Mubarak set to be freed from prison

Prosecutors clear ex-president in graft case, but his release may stoke tension in a divided nation

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 20 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 20 August, 2013, 2:09am

Egypt's disgraced former president Hosni Mubarak will be released from jail soon after prosecutors cleared him in a corruption case, his lawyer said yesterday, dropping a new bombshell on a nation in turmoil.

Mubarak's continued detention now rests 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 said.

Without confirming that Mubarak would be freed, judicial officials said a court yesterday ordered his release in a corruption case that alleged he and his two sons embezzled funds for presidential palaces.

Mubarak was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison in June last year for his failure to stop the killing of some 900 protesters in the 18-day uprising against his rule. His sentence was overturned on appeal and he is now being retried,

But this would not necessarily require him to stay in jail. Mubarak did not appear at a hearing in the case on Saturday. He was also absent from the proceedings yesterday.

The officials said there were no longer any grounds to hold the 85-year-old former autocrat because of the expiry of a two-year legal limit for holding an individual in custody pending a final verdict.

Mubarak, in detention since April 2011, ruled Egypt for 30 years. He is being held at Tora prison on the outskirts of Cairo, the facility where senior members of the Muslim Brotherhood are being detained after the military deposed president Mohammed Mursi on July 3.

Mubarak's eventual release could stir more political tension in Egypt, where violence has claimed at least 1,000 lives so far.

Yesterday, suspected militants ambushed two minibuses carrying off-duty policemen in Egypt's Sinai peninsula, killing 25 of them execution-style and wounding two.

The killings, which took place near the border town of Rafah, compounded Egypt's woes a day after police fired tear gas to free a prison guard from rioting detainees, killing at least 36.

In the Sinai attack, the militants forced the two vehicles to stop, ordered the policemen out and forced them to lie on the ground before they shot them dead. The policemen were in civilian clothes, officials said.

The deaths on Sunday of the prisoners, who were captured during clashes over the past couple of days around Cairo's central Ramses Square, came as military chief General Abdel-Fatah el-Sisi vowed the military would stand firm in the face of the rising violence but also called for the inclusion of Islamists in the post-Mursi political process.

Sinai, which borders the Gaza Strip and Israel, has been witnessing almost daily attacks since Mursi's ousting last month in a military coup. Military and security forces have been engaged in a long-running battle against militants in the northern half of the peninsula. Al-Qaeda-linked fighters, some of whom consider Mursi's Brotherhood too moderate, and tribesmen have used the area for smuggling .

In another development, Mursi was accused of complicity in the deaths and torture of protesters outside his presidential palace late last year, judicial sources said. He already stands accused of crimes related to his 2011 escape from prison.

Additional reporting by Associated Press