Egypt court orders release of Mubarak

CAIRO — An Egyptian court ordered Wednesday the release of ousted President Hosni Mubarak, but it is not yet clear if the ailing ex-leader will walk free after over two years in detention, officials said.

Prosecutors may appeal the order, which comes following a hearing on charges against Mubarak of accepting gifts from a state-owned newspaper, the last case that has kept him in detention. It is not known if they will file they appeal.

The possibility of Mubarak going free is likely to fuel the unrest already roiling the country after the autocratic leader’s successor, Islamist President Mohammed Morsi, was removed in a military coup last month.

Top prison official Mostafa Baz told the private CBC TV station that his offices will ask the prosecutors Thursday if Mubarak is wanted in other cases. If not, he would be set free.

The hearing was held in Tora prison, where Mubarak, 85, has been held for most of his detention since April 2011. Officials cited security concerns as the reason for holding it in the sprawling, tightly secured facility.

Mubarak is now on trial for the killing of protesters during the 2011 uprising against him and other charges.

He was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison last year for failing to stop the killing of some 900 protesters in Egypt’s 2011 uprising. His sentence was overturned on appeal and he is now being retried, along with his security chief and six top police commanders. His trial resumes later this month.

He is facing a number of other corruption charges, but no other trial dates have been set.

The court officials spoke anonymously because they are not authorized to speak to the media.

Rights lawyer and judicial expert Nasser Amin said procedurally Mubarak should have been released since his sentence was overturned, but that the political circumstances may delay letting him go.

“His release will cause chaos,” he said. “It will be used by Islamists as proof of the return of the old regime.”

Egyptian authorities have continued their crackdown on Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood, arresting the group’s supreme leader and other senior figures and sending them to trial.

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