Egypt's ousted Mubarak leaves prison, moved into house arrest
By Samer Al-Atrush, AFPCAIRO--Egypt's toppled dictator Hosni Mubarak was transferred from prison to house arrest at a military hospital on Thursday, in a move overshadowed by a blistering crackdown against his Islamist successors.
August 24, 2013, 12:00 am TWN
The former strongman, forced to quit in early 2011, was flown by medical helicopter to a military hospital, where he will remain under house arrest as he stands trial on corruption and murder charges.
His ouster in 2011 was a pivotal moment in regional democratic upheavals that in Egypt led to an Islamist government, which lasted a year before a popularly backed military coup last month.
In other circumstances, the 85-year-old's removal from prison might have caused shockwaves.
But with Egypt mired in a deadly conflict between the military-installed government and Islamists, Mubarak's transfer took place amid little fanfare or protest.
He was ordered released after his lawyer argued Mubarak's stay in prison had exceeded the maximum pre-verdict detention, and Mubarak made financial amends for one of his charges.
He still faces trial for corruption and his role in the deaths of protesters during the uprising that toppled him, with his next hearing on Sunday.
Prime Minister Hazem al-Beblawi, empowered with the authority to order arrests under the current state of emergency, ordered Mubarak to be placed under house arrest after release from jail.
Mubarak chose to be held at the military hospital, the official MENA news agency reported.
The decision to grant Mubarak pre-trial release added a volatile new element to the political turmoil that has gripped Egypt since the army ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi on July 3 following massive protests against him.
More than 1,000 people have been killed in the past week in violence following the forcible break-up of two pro-Morsi camps in the capital.
Authorities have arrested dozens of members of Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood, including its supreme guide Mohamed Badie — the first time the group's chief has been arrested since 1981.
Morsi himself is being held at a secret location and faces charges related to his 2011 escape from prison and inciting the death and torture of protesters.
EU foreign ministers agreed at an emergency meeting Wednesday to suspend the sale of arms and security equipment to Cairo in response to the mounting violence.
They issued a statement calling recent security operations “disproportionate,” while also condemning “acts of terrorism” in the Sinai and the church attacks.
But they expressed concern over the economic situation and said “assistance in the socio-economic sector and to civil society will continue.”
Washington on Thursday also sidestepped questions about Mubarak's release, saying it was a matter for Cairo to decide, but called for Morsi to be freed.
“With respect to the Mubarak trial and decisions made, this is an internal Egyptian legal matter,” said State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki.
“Our position on Mr. Morsi remains the same. We believe there should be a process for his release,” Psaki said.