Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is set to leave jail after a court ordered him freed pending trial. However, he is to be placed under house arrest when he does leave prison.
The prime minister’s office said it would place the 85-year-old Mubarak under house arrest on the basis of Egypt’s current state of emergency. It remains unclear exactly when Mubarak might leave prison, or where authorities would take him, though he is expected to go to one of three facilities later on Thursday.
The April 6 protest movement, which in part led the uprising that caused Mubarak to step down in early 2011, condemned the court order as a “deviation from the course of the revolution.”
Mubarak faces prosecution for corruption and for complicity in the deaths of hundreds of people killed during the uprising against him. Last year, a court sentenced him to life in prison for complicity, but he went on to win an appeal. The former president may appear at his next scheduled hearing, on Sunday, although he has not always attended court sessions in the cases against him.
The court ordered Mubarak’s release after a hearing on charges that he accepted gifts from a state-owned newspaper, the last case keeping him in detention, where he has spent over two years. In the past when courts have approved Mubarak’s release, prosecutors have leveled new charges to keep him in detention. The state news agency MENA reported, however, that Wednesday’s decision could not be contested because it was issued by an appeals court.
MENA reported that interim Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi would decide where to hold Mubarak. Potential locations include the strongman’s residence in Sharm al-Sheikh, as well as two military hospitals that have treated him in recent years: one in Cairo and one north of the capital.
Mubarak’s release adds a new element to Egypt’s turmoil. Nearly 1,000 people have died since the August 14 dispersal of protests supporting ousted President Mohammed Morsi. Egypt’s interim government arrested several senior members of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist group that helped bring to Morsi to power; he himself has been in detention since his July 3 ouster.
The Tamarod youth movement has blamed Morsi’s government for Mubarak’s release, accusing the president’s short-lived state of failing 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.
“If it is acquittal for Mubarak today, it will be acquittal for Morsi tomorrow,” the group alleged. “We will not remain silent about freedom for any killer of the Egyptian people.”
Meeting on Egypt’s recent strife, European Union foreign ministers agreed to suspend export licenses for weapons or goods that could be used for internal repression, according to Catherine Ashton. The bloc’s foreign policy coordinator added that member states would review aid to Egypt. Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and others had already suspended arms exports to Egypt.
“Egypt can never accept an interference in its sovereignty or the independence of its decisions or an interference in its internal affairs,” interim Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy said in a statement after the EU talks. “The only standard that rules Egypt’s decisions is the supreme interest of the country and its national security.”
The US also announced that it would also review aid in light of the bloodshed. Saudi Arabia, which opposes the Muslim Brotherhood, promised to make up any shortfall.
(Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)