International

Mubarak released from prison, flown to military hospital

Former strongman hospitalized at his own request

Egyptian soldiers and medics escort former President Hosni Mubarak after he arrives at a military hospital in the Cairo suburb of Maadi on Thursday.
Reuters

In a move seen as symbolic across Egypt's political spectrum, former President Hosni Mubarak has been released from prison and flown to a hospital in Cairo. He was transferred at his own request to Maadi hospital, where he had been treated during his two-year detention.

The interim prime minister's office had previously indicated Mubarak would be placed under house arrest, following a court ruling stating he could be released from prison pending further investigation into corruption charges against him. The former president, ousted during a 2011 uprising, has been told he can prepare for future court appearances from home.

Mubarak's release was not appealed even though prosecutors had 48 hours to challenge it. An appeal could have kept the former president in prison for up to 30 days more.

The former strongman's release was greeted by many supporters and opponents as a sign that the old order is reasserting itself, just weeks after democratically elected President Mohamed Morsi was toppled in a military coup. The prison Mubarak departed on Thursday now houses a number of senior Muslim Brotherhood colleagues of Morsi.

Shadi Hamid, director of research at Brookings Doha Center, said Mubarak's release "confirms what everyone already knows -- that Egypt is moving towards a full-blown autocracy." Hamid told Al Jazeera, "It's not just returning to what it was under the Mubarak era but (to) something significantly worse." 

Mubarak has already spent more than two years in pretrial detention, the maximum allowed under Egyptian law, and is now eligible for release pending trial.

Hamid added that Egypt's judiciary system is "highly politicized."

"If the army wanted a different kind of outcome, then that would have happened."

The courts have issued three orders since April stating that Mubarak could no longer be held on various charges, and Wednesday's ruling cleared the way for his release on the fourth and final charge. He will still face trial on charges including complicity in the killing of protesters during the 2011 revolution that toppled him, and three separate corruption cases.

The bigger test for judicial independence, judicial experts say, will be the trials themselves, particularly the charge of killing protesters. With an army-backed interim government in power, many observers expect to see Mubarak eventually acquitted.

"After the fall of Muslim Brotherhood rule, Mubarak's defense will likely shift the blame to them," said Hoda Nasrallah, a lawyer at the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, referring to claims by Mubarak's longtime intelligence chief Omar Suleiman that the Brotherhood was responsible for the violence during the revolution.

"(And) as for the financial corruption cases, often these cases are settled when the amount in question is returned," Nasrallah told Al Jazeera.

The courts have issued three orders since April releasing Mubarak on various charges, and Wednesday's ruling cleared the way for his release on the fourth and final one. He will still face trial on charges including complicity in killing of protesters during the 2011 revolution that toppled him and three separate corruption cases.

The bigger test for judicial independence, judicial experts say, will be the trials themselves, particularly the charge of killing protesters. With an army-backed interim government in power, many observers expect to see Mubarak eventually acquitted.

"After the fall of Muslim Brotherhood rule, Mubarak's defense will likely shift the blame to them," said Hoda Nasrallah, a lawyer at the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, referring to claims by Mubarak's longtime intelligence chief Omar Suleiman that the Brotherhood was responsible for the violence during the revolution.

"[And] as for the financial corruption cases, often these cases are settled when the amount in question is returned," she told Al Jazeera.

The courts have issued three orders since April releasing Mubarak on various charges, and Wednesday's ruling cleared the way for his release on the fourth and final one. He will still face trial on charges including complicity in killing of protesters during the 2011 revolution that toppled him and three separate corruption cases.

The bigger test for judicial independence, judicial experts say, will be the trials themselves, particularly the charge of killing protesters. With an army-backed interim government in power, many observers expect to see Mubarak eventually acquitted.

"After the fall of Muslim Brotherhood rule, Mubarak's defense will likely shift the blame to them," said Hoda Nasrallah, a lawyer at the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, referring to claims by Mubarak's longtime intelligence chief Omar Suleiman that the Brotherhood was responsible for the violence during the revolution.

"[And] as for the financial corruption cases, often these cases are settled when the amount in question is returned," she told Al Jazeera.


Mubarak
Adel Mahmoud Osman
D. Parvaz/Al Jazeera

RELATED: Egyptians reflect on Mubarak release ruling

"As of now, with the current situation, it is a good thing that Mubarak might be freed, especially after the atrocities committed by the Muslim Brotherhood.

We voted for them, gave them a year, but they didn't work for our benefit or for the benefit of Egypt. Even after Morsi was overthrown, they wanted to rule the country by force." -- Adel Mahmoud Osman Read more


Corruption and murder

At least one of those cases could indeed be close to a settlement. Wednesday's ruling concerns the so-called Ahram gifts case, in which Mubarak allegedly accepted $11 million worth of gifts, including jewelry and watches, from the state-run newspaper Al-Ahram.

He allegedly repaid the amount of the gifts, and the other defendants in the case have been released, suggesting that the charges against Mubarak could eventually be dropped.

He also faces charges of embezzling money from a fund earmarked for presidential palace renovations. A judge working on the case ordered him released on Monday, on the same procedural grounds. A separate charge accuses him of "illicit gains" during his presidency.

Mubarak was convicted last year of involvement in the murder of protesters during the 2011 uprising, and sentenced to life in prison, but he was granted a retrial earlier this year. His next hearing is scheduled for Aug. 25.

Many of Mubarak's ministers and top aides have been acquitted in trials following the revolution. Activists blame the judiciary, much of which was appointed during Mubarak's 30-year rule, while judges argue they have been overwhelmed by the workload and have often been handed cases that lack solid evidence.

Ehab Zahriyeh contributed to this report. Al Jazeera and wire services

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