International

Egypt court to review Mubarak case

Decision comes amidst a crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood and US dissatisfaction with the Egyptian military

Supporters of ousted Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak hold his picture at a demonstration in Cairo January 13, 2013.
Khaled Desouki/AFP/Getty Images

Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak could be freed from jail after a court reviews his case Wednesday, potentially rousing further unrest in a country where army-backed authorities continue to hunt down members of the Muslim Brotherhood in an effort to curb its ability to organize mass protests.

The court will convene at the Cairo prison where Mubarak is being held, judicial sources said, and review a petition from his lawyer demanding that the leader overthrown during the 2011 uprisings that swept the Arab world be freed.

If the court upholds the petition, there would remain no legal grounds for Mubarak's continued detention, though he is being retried on charges of complicity in the killing of protesters in 2011.

"The very fact the release is thought about, talked about, is a real sign of how things have changed over the last six weeks in Egypt," said Al Jazeera's correspondent Mike Hanna in Cairo.

TIMELINE: Egypt since Morsi's ouster

While the likelihood of Mubarak's actual release is uncertain, it serves to further the army's message that there is no place for members of the Muslim Brotherhood -- the party from which deposed President Mohamed Morsi hails -- in the echelons of political power in the country.

That notion was further reinforced Wednesday when two leading figures tied to the Brotherhood were arrested by state authorities: one as he attempted to flee to neighboring Libya in disguise, and the other at the Cairo airport on his way to catch a flight out of the country.

Clerif Safwat Hegazy, a Salafi preacher and top Brotherhood ally, was captured at a checkpoint near the Siwa Oasis in eastern Egypt, close to the border with Libya, according to the state-run MENA news agency. The cleric is wanted on charges of instigating violence.

Hegazy was a key speaker at the main pro-Morsi sit-in that was dispersed by security troops last Wednesday in Cairo's Nasr City suburb. He told protesters to hold their ground and promised to deal blows to the military. He is wanted on charges of instigating deadly clashes last month with security forces outside a Republican Guard building. Fifty-four people, most of them Morsi supporters, were killed in the violence. 

Also, an Egyptian security official said Mourad Ali, a spokesman for the Brotherhood's political party, was detained at the Cairo airport while trying to catch a flight to Italy. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

The detentions come a day after the group's top leader and spiritual guide Mohammed Badie was arrested by authorities.

Badie and his powerful deputy, Khairat el-Shater, who is already in custody, will go on trial later this month for their alleged role in the killing of eight protesters outside the Brotherhood's Cairo headquarters in June.

Egypt's military crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood is receiving support from a journalist and prominent blogger in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Hamad Al Mazroui announced a 1 million Egyptian pound ($143,000) bounty from anyone "regardless of nationality or religion" who has information leading to the capture of Brotherhood leaders Essam el-Erian, Safwat Hegazy, and Mohammed el-Beltagy.

Al Mazroui also said on his twitter feed that the reward would be coordinated with the Egyptian Interior Ministry. The UAE was one of the first countries to back Egypt's military coup deposing on July 3 with billions in financial support.

Also Tuesday, former Egyptian vice president and Nobel Peace Prize winner Mohamed ElBaradei, who became the country's vice president in the aftermath of the July 3 coup, was accused of high treason by a court for breaching "national trust" by quitting the military-led interim government after a bloody crackdown on members of the Muslim Brotherhood.

PM defiant on threats to aid

Meanwhile, Egypt's interim prime minister said Tuesday that his country could do without foreign aid, as both the United States and the European Union are reviewing ties with Cairo following a bloody crackdown on anti-coup protests.

Hazem el-Beblawi told ABC news Tuesday that his country was heading in the "right direction" and he did "not fear civil war" despite the death of more than 830 people in a military-led campaign against backers of deposed Morsi.

Beblawi said that it would be "a bad sign" for the U.S. to cut off aid to his country, but that while such a step would "badly affect the military for some time," Egypt would survive.

His remarks came the same day that President Barack Obama met with his national security team as it continues to reassess the contours of its annual aid package of $ 1.3 billion to the country, the majority of which comes in the form of military assistance.

Despite some rumors to the contrary, however, the White House insisted that changes to the aid policy were only under review and that no final decision had been made.

"Our aid and assistance relationship with Egypt is under a review, but it has not been cut off," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said. "A decision to cut off aid would be announced, if it were to be announced, after that review has been completed."

Al Jazeera and wire services

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