Egyptian Court Orders Release of Hosni Mubarak

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Aug. 19 2013 10:23 AM

Egyptian Court Orders Release of Deposed President (but Not the One You're Thinking Of)

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Egyptian supporters of former president Hosni Mubarak celebrate in Cairo on January 13, 2013, after the court of Cessation, the top appeals court, accepted an appeal for a retrial of the ousted president

Photo by Khaled Desouki/AFP/Getty Images

An Egypt court on Monday reportedly ordered the release of disgraced former President Hosni Mubarak from jail, an unexpected development that adds another major unknown to the ongoing bloody conflict between the interim government and supporters of Mohamed Morsi, the man who succeeded Mubarak as president in 2012 following a transition government.

The exact timing of Mubarak's release is unclear, however. His lawyer told Reuters that the only thing standing in the way of his release is a "simple administrative procedure" that shouldn't take more than a day or two. State-run media, however, is reporting that the former autocrat will remain in custody for at least another two weeks under a previous judicial order. Regardless, the potential release of a man who was deposed as president in 2011 injects a a major wild card into an already unpredictable situation on the ground in Cairo and in the rest of Egypt. The New York Times explains:

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The development threatened to inject a volatile new element into the standoff between the country’s military and the Islamist supporters of the deposed President Mohamed Morsi, as Egypt entered the sixth day of a state of emergency following a bloody crackdown by the military in which hundreds of people have been killed. It was unclear how Egyptians — particularly those who have welcomed the military action against Mr. Morsi — would respond to the release of a despised autocrat whose downfall united Mr. Mubarak’s secular and Islamist foes. News of the legal maneuvers came at a time of sustained bloodletting.

The 85-year-old Mubarak was arrested after the popular uprising that overthrew him in 2011. He was later found guilty on a variety of charges last June and sentenced to life in prison for failing to stop the killing of roughly 900 protesters in the weeks-long uprising against his regime. That sentence, however, was later overturned and he is now being retried. According to the Associated Press, Egyptian officials no longer have any grounds to hold Mubarak thanks to an Egyptian law that sets a two-year limit for holding an individual in custody pending a final verdict.

Morsi, meanwhile, is being held at an undisclosed location on allegations of murder and spying. Earlier this month, a court extended his detention period for an additional 30 days.

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Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. Follow him on Twitter.