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Mubarak leaves prison for house arrest

Agencies | Updated: 2013-08-23 06:34

CAIRO - Egypt's Hosni Mubarak was flown from jail on Thursday in a symbolic victory for an army-dominated old order that has overthrown and imprisoned his freely elected Islamist successor.

Mubarak leaves prison for house arrest

Egyptian army soldiers and medics escort former president Hosni Mubarak after he arrives at a military hospital in the southern suburb of Maadi on the outskirts of Cairo, August 22, 2013. [Photo/Agencies]

A blue-and-white helicopter took Mubarak from Cairo's Tora prison, where scores of his supporters had gathered to hail his release. He was flown to a military hospital in the nearby southern suburb of Maadi, officials said.

"He protected the country," said Lobna Mohamed, a housewife in the crowd of Mubarak well-wishers. "He is a good man, but we want (Abdel Fattah) Sisi now," she said, referring to the army commander who overthrew Islamist Mohamed Morsi on July 3.

For Mubarak's enemies, the moment marked a reversal of the January 2011 pro-democracy uprising that brought him down after three decades in power as one of the pillars of authoritarian rule in the Middle East.

But some Egyptians, many of whom have rallied behind the army's decision to depose Morsi, expressed fondness for the 85-year-old former air force commander whose tight grip on power brought stability.

Judicial authorities had ordered Mubarak's release from Tora. His lawyer and other sources said earlier that his first destination would be an upscale hospital northeast of Cairo.

The prime minister's office has said Mubarak will be placed under house arrest.

That decision was made under a month-long state of emergency declared last week when police stormed protest camps set up in Cairo by deposed leader Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood to call for his reinstatement.

According to official sources, about 900 people, including some 100 soldiers and police, have been killed in violence across Egypt since then, making it the bloodiest bout of internal strife in the country's modern history as a republic. The Brotherhood says the toll is even higher. Most of the victims were gunned down by security forces.

In the latest violence, gunmen in a car killed an army major and a soldier near the Suez Canal city of Ismailia, security sources said. Two soldiers were wounded. The assailants escaped.

Mubarak's release dismayed some Egyptians.

"He should stay in prison. The country is facing obstacles so people are turning back to Mubarak. They don't know what they are doing," said Hoda Saleh, a fully veiled woman who was leaving Tora, where her brother is an inmate.

To outsiders who watch Egypt, the symbolism was powerful.

"This is the end. Mubarak will never be an important political player, but symbolically, it's a victory dance by the reconstituted old state under the leadership of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces," said Joshua Stacher, an Egypt expert at Kent State University in the United States.

Mubarak was sentenced to life in prison last year for failing to prevent the killing of demonstrators. But a court accepted his appeal earlier this year and ordered a retrial in the case, for which he has already served the maximum amount of pretrial detention. Mubarak was arrested in April, 2011.  

This week, two court rulings in separate corruption cases removed the last legal grounds for his continued detention, although he will not be allowed to leave Egypt and his assets remain frozen.

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