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Africa

Egyptian court orders release of ex-president Mubarak

Video by Adam PLETTS

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-08-21

An Egyptian court ordered the release of Hosni Mubarak on Wednesday but the former president will remain under house arrest once freed, the prime minister said. His lawyer said he could be released as early as Thursday.

Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak could be freed from prison on Thursday after a court ordered his release in a corruption case that was the last remaining legal grounds for his detention.

Egypt’s prime minister has ordered that ex-president Mubarak be placed under house arrest when he’s released following more than two years in detention.

Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi said in a statement Wednesday that he ordered Mubarak be put under house arrest as part of the emergency measures put in place this month.

Mubarak’s release order followed an appeal from his lawyers in one of the cases of corruption he is facing. The 85-year old ousted president, who was sentenced to life in prison last year for failing to prevent the killing of demonstrators, is still facing trial in separate charges. The decision to put him under house arrest comes amid fears his release would fuel tensions already roiling the country following the ouster of former president Mohammed Morsi in a July 3 overthrow

Mubarak’s release “will cause chaos,” human rights lawyer Nasser Amin told AP. “It will be used by Islamists as proof of the return of the old regime ... and can lead to new alliances between revolutionary groups and political Islam.”

‘Mubarak today, Morsi tomorrow’

Tamrod, the youth campaign that spearheaded the petition and protests against Morsi that led to his eventual ouster, blamed the government for Mubarak’s possible release because they said it failed to admit new evidence in the case against the autocrat.

In a statement, Tamarod warned against releasing Mubarak, saying it would be a threat to national security. The group appealed to the interim authorities to use the emergency measures in place earlier this month to keep the former president behind bars.

The group said revolutionary groups “will not stand idle seeing the killers of martyrs get acquitted”.

“If it is acquittal for Mubarak today, it will be acquittal for Morsi tomorrow,” the group said, vowing to hold a public show trial for Mubarak soon. “We will not remain silent about freedom for any killer of the Egyptian people.”

‘Decision final’

Egypt’s prosecutor Hesham Barakat told local media that the Wednesday decision was final and his office has no plans to appeal it. A senior prison official, Mostafa Baz, told the private CBC television station that his office will ask the prosecutors on Thursday whether Mubarak is wanted in other cases. If he’s not, Baz said the former leader would be freed.

The possibility of Mubarak’s release came in the midst of the post-ouster crackdown that has left more than 1,000 people dead and hundreds in detention.

Other serious blows for the pro-Islamist camp this week were three high-level arrests: of the supreme leader and spiritual guide of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood, of a cleric instrumental in fomenting street protest against the ouster, of a senior Brotherhood spokesman, and of a senior group official who served as a governor in south Egypt during Morsi’s rule. Despite the crackdown, the pro-Morsi groups vowed to hold massive rallies on Friday.

Judicial rollercoaster

Since his overthrow in February 2011, Mubarak has been on a roller coaster ride through the courts during which he has been convicted, only for another court to overturn the ruling, grant him a retrial and order him released. Still, he was kept behind bars pending his retrial and on other charges.

For his first trial, on charges of corruption and conspiracy in the deadly shooting of nearly 900 protesters during the uprising against him, Mubarak was on a gurney behind prison cage bars and denied the charges. The first Arab leader to face trial by his own people, he was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.

Last January, he was interrogated about gifts he allegedly received from Al-Ahram, the country’s flagship state-owned newspaper, and agreed to refund it $3 million. And in the same month a court overturned his life sentence on the grounds that the prosecution lacked concrete evidence and failed to prove the protesters were killed by the police.

Ailing health

In April, an investigation began into allegations Mubarak and his family embezzled state funds designated for the maintenance and upkeep of presidential palaces. And on April 13, he was back on trial for alleged complicity in the killing of protesters in the last days of his rule. That trial, the one that could put him back in prison, resumes on Aug. 25.

Since his detention, Mubarak repeatedly has been hospitalised. As president, his health was a state secret. Since his ouster, Mubarak’s supporters have released conflicting details, including that he suffered a stroke, a heart attack and at times went into a coma. His critics called these an attempt to gain public sympathy and court leniency.

Lawyer Ahmed Ragheb, who was part of a commission appointed by Morsi to find new evidence for the trial of Mubarak and associates, told AP that the decision to release Mubarak was no surprise. He said the prosecution was poor and the evidence was collected by police who were largely loyal to Mubarak and his security chiefs.

“This goes to show that the main problem [of prosecuting Mubarak] is in the judiciary ... and the failure to institute a transitional justice process,” he said. “The judiciary, including the prosecution, the police and the courts, go back to the Mubarak era.”

(FRANCE  24 with wires)

Date created : 2013-08-21

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