Former Egyptian 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.
The most populous Arab country is already enduring the bloodiest internal conflict in its modern history as the army, which ousted Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi on July 3 after huge protests against him, cracks down on his Muslim Brotherhood.
Mubarak, 85, was arrested after a popular uprising overthrew him on Feb. 11, 2011, as unrest spread across the Arab world.
In scenes that mesmerized Arabs, the ex-strongman appeared in a court-room cage during his trial on 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 a corruption case that 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.
A judicial source said the former leader would spend another two weeks behind bars before judicial authorities made a final decision in the outstanding case against him.
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 defense, but this would not necessarily require him to stay in jail.
Mubarak’s release could stir more tension in Egypt, where at least 850 people, including 70 policemen and soldiers, have been killed since the army-backed government forcibly dispersed Brotherhood sit-ins in Cairo on Wednesday last week.
In separate violence, suspected Islamist militants killed at least 24 policemen yesterday in the Sinai Peninsula, while at least 36 Islamists died in government custody on Sunday, in what the Brotherhood described as “murder” and the authorities said was a thwarted jailbreak.
The Egyptian Ministry of the Interior said 36 Brotherhood detainees had been suffocated by tear gas during an attempted prison breakout near Cairo.
A source said 38 men had died from asphyxiation in the back of a crammed police van.