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Egypt's Mubarak may be freed

Agencies | Updated: 2013-08-20 06:24

CAIRO - Egypt's former leader Hosni Mubarak could soon be freed from jail, giving a new jolt to a nation in turmoil, after a court ruled on Monday that he could no longer be held in custody on a corruption charge.

Egypt's Mubarak may be freed

Egypt's ousted President Hosni Mubarak sits inside a dock at the police academy on the outskirts of Cairo, in this file picture taken April 15, 2013. [Photo/Agencies]

His lawyer said he could be released within days, six weeks after the armed forces Mubarak once commanded deposed his elected Islamist successor to spark the bloodiest internal conflict in the modern history of the most populous Arab state.

The army detained President Mohamed Morsi on July 3 after huge protests against him. It has since cracked down on his Muslim Brotherhood. Among hundreds of casualties, dozens of security personnel have died, including 24 policemen killed by suspected Islamists near the border with Israel on Monday.

At 85, Mubarak may have no political future but his release could stir emotions and raise new questions on whether the popular uprising that ended his 30-year rule in February 2011 is leading back simply to a new form of military-backed government.

Arrested two years ago as talk of democracy swept the Arab world, the former strongman appeared in a courtroom cage at a trial in which he was convicted of complicity in the murder of protesters. In January, Egypt's highest court ordered a retrial.

After Monday's court ruling, the only legal grounds for Mubarak's continued detention rest on another corruption case which 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 told Reuters.

Without confirming that Mubarak would be released, a judicial source said he would spend another two weeks behind bars before a court ruling on the outstanding case against him.

The former leader is being held at Tora prison on the southern outskirts of Cairo, which also hosts senior Brotherhood members detained in a clampdown that followed Morsi's ouster.

Mubarak's eventual release could generate more political tension in Egypt, where almost 900 people, including nearly 100 soldiers and police, have been killed since the authorities forcibly dispersed Brotherhood sit-ins in Cairo on Wednesday.

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