Mubarak, awaiting retrial, to be placed under house arrest
Ousted leader gets freedom back, but will stay at home for his own safety • Former leader to be tried again over the killing of protestors but corruption charges may be dropped • Ben-Eliezer: The Egyptians miss Mubarak, despite faults • Europe cuts aid.
Daniel Siryoti, Eli Leon and Gideon Allon
Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak
Photo credit: AP
What was considered pure fantasy up until two months ago turned into reality on Wednesday when a special tribunal ordered ousted Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak released from the Tora Prison, where he was awaiting trial.
During the court hearing Mubarak's lawyer, Farid el-Deeb, cited the fact that Mubarak had been incarcerated for the maximum amount of time permissible under the law -- two years. The judges said that although Mubarak still had to stand trial again for the killing of protestors, there was no legal requirement to keep him behind bars. The prosecution said they would not challenge the court's decision.
In 2012, Mubarak was found guilty of ordering the killing of protesters during the 2010-2011 popular uprising, but he has since successfully appealed his verdict and is awaiting retrial. Mubarak was also acquitted on one count of corruption and may have others dropped or dismissed outright.
According to various news reports on Wednesday, Mubarak may leave prison within 48 hours, although Interim President Adly Mahmud Mansour has instructed the authorities to place Mubarak under house arrest in Sharm el-Sheikh due to the country's state of emergency following the ouster of Islamist president Mohammed Morsi. Mubarak's sons Alaa and Gamal are also awaiting trial, along with Mubarak's Interior Minister Habib el-Adly. All three are expected to remain in prison.
A security official in Cairo said Mubarak's house arrest is a consequence of the regime having assured Saudi Arabia that the former leader's well-being would be guaranteed.
Meanwhile, the Egyptian military continued its manhunt for those responsible for the killing of 25 Egyptian off-duty police officers in Sinai this week, as part of the ongoing clashes between the Muslim Brotherhood and the newly installed regime.
The international community has been upping the pressure on the Egyptian rulers in light of the violent clashes. A statement issued by the European Union on Wednesday said member states had agreed to "suspend export licences to Egypt for any equipment which might be used for internal repression." The 28 foreign ministers who had convened in Brussels for an emergency summit urged the Egyptian military and the pro-Morsi camp to renew their talks so as to avoid additional casualties.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said the ministers "decided to maintain aid for the Egyptian population because it already suffers enormously." The EU's High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton said the ministers "do believe the recent operations of the security forces have been disproportionate and we’re worried about the resulting alarming number of people that have been killed.”
Over in Washington, U.S. President Barack Obama held a special meeting with the National Security Council and Secretary of State John Kerry to discuss the latest developments in Egypt. Despite reports on the suspension of U.S. aid to the African state, the administration said no such decision had been made. Egyptian Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi played down the reports on the scaled back aid, saying Egypt "would be just fine without U.S. and European aid."
On Wednesday, MK Binyamin (Fouad) Ben-Eliezer (Labor) told the Israeli news portal Ynet that "Mubarak's release was expected. Since I follow the Egyptian media -- both on radio and on television -- I can tell you that Mubarak is missed. The Egyptian street feels that way too."
Ben-Eliezer has been a close friend of the ousted Egyptian leader and has frequently conversed with him. "Considering what has been taking place in Egypt, people will now appreciate his contribution much more; Egyptians had a unique opportunity to evaluate Morsi and watch how he transformed Egypt from a military dictatorship into an Islamist dictatorship," Ben-Eliezer continued. "Mubarak is no saint; he has had his share of mistakes, but he is also no Zionist. He is an Egyptian patriot who loves his nation; he has contributed heavily, and personally, to the stability of the Middle East and the West."
Ben-Eliezer said it was too early to tell whether Mubarak's release would have an impact on how things unfolded in Egypt.