An Egyptian court on Saturday ordered the release of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak pending further investigation on corruption charges, but he will continue to be imprisoned on two other corruption cases.
The decision by a misdemeanors court in Nasr City came days after another court ordered Mubarak released pending his retrial in a separate case alleging responsibility for the deaths of nearly 900 protesters during the 2011 uprising against him.
In that case, an appeals court in January threw out a life sentence against him, granting him a new trial, which is to resume on May 11.
Mubarak has been in detention since 2011 and currently is in Tora prison in Cairo.
Setting Mubarak free, even temporarily while on trial, is a contentious issue. Many perceive the release as evidence of the failure of the revolution to achieve justice and hold former regime officials accountable.
Others, who contend his release is justified, are increasingly frustrated with what they see as incompetent leadership by Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood.
The court order came a day after violent street clashes erupted between proponents and opponents of Morsi, and on the same day that the president announced plans to reshuffle his Cabinet in a move that could help form a political consensus around a US$4.8 billion loan Cairo is seeking from the IMF and calm the fighting.
The violence was sparked when Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood backers took to the streets to call for a “cleansing” of the judiciary and for loyalists of the former regime to be purged from state institutions.
Egypt’s liberal opposition rejected their call. They deemed it a cover for upcoming measures by Morsi and the country’s temporarily parliament to liquidate the judiciary and infuse their own members in a way to monopolize the judiciary.
The judiciary is the sole branch of government not dominated by Morsi’s Islamist allies. Some judges accuse Morsi of trying to undermine their authority, while the president’s allies charge that Mubarak supporters in the courts are blocking Morsi and trying to derail Egypt’s transition to democracy.
The opposition has demanded that Morsi change the Cabinet, appoint a new prosecutor general and guarantee free and fair elections.
Meanwhile, Egyptian Justice Minister Ahmed Mekky has resigned in protest at what he sees as “an assault” on the judiciary by the government, the Justice Ministry spokesman announced yesterday.
Mekky submitted his resignation to Morsi on Saturday, spokesman Ahmed Salam said.
Mekky, who was appointed in August last year, had been quoted in local media as saying he would resign if the government’s judicial reform bill was passed.
The Islamist-dominated upper house of parliament has yet to vote on the legislation.
Mekky was widely regarded as a supporter of judicial independence during Mubarak’s rule, but his critics had accused him of siding with the new Islamist-led authorities.