(Photo: Amr Nabil, AP)
CAIRO - An Egyptian court on Wednesday ordered former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, who was ousted from power in 2011, released from prison.
Reuters reports that prosecutors, who had 48 hours in which to challenge the order, will not contest the decision, setting the stage for him to be freed as early as Thursday. He would be on house arrest after release, according to Egypt state television.
The release of the once-detested dictator, who ruled Egypt for three decades, would be yet another twist in the nation's political transition as Islamists who rose to power after Mubarak's overthrow are being crushed and the country witnesses signs of a return to the old order.
Egyptian officials confirmed the news of the court's decision to Reuters and the Associated Press.
"Mubarak's release would only sound natural in the environment we're seeing right now, unfortunately," said Ziad Abdel Tawab, deputy director of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies.
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"It doesn't really make a big different if Mubarak is back because all the symptoms of Mubarak have been back," he said.
Mubarak, however, still faces a retrial related to the killing of hundreds of protesters during his overthrow, when hundreds of thousands took to Egypt's streets for 18 days. But he can't be held anymore because of a two-year limit pending a final verdict for the case, which began in August 2011, the AP reported.
After hundreds of thousands rose up against Mubarak in 2011, he appeared on television screens nationwide, peering out from behind bars in a courtroom as many hoped to finally see justice for years of police abuse, repression and corruption.
Months later, Islamists rose to power and the Muslim Brotherhood's Mohammed Morsi was elected president. Now, Islamists and supporters of Morsi are being thrown in jail and hundreds have been killed as the country presses on with a contested political transition.
"What we've seen lately is a total return to the security apparatus that people protested against in January 2011," said Abdel Tawab.
On Tuesday, a 10-member technical committee tasked with revising the 2012 constitution handed its amendments to interim President Adly Mansour, according to local news media. One change would impose a ban on religious-based political parties, which would threaten to dissolve dozens of political parties formed since Mubarak's ouster. That includes the Brotherhood's political wing, the Freedom and Justice Party, local press said.
A new 50-member committee comprised of a diverse range of Egyptians will review the draft. The committee is not yet appointed.
But opposing political camps remain at odds over the transition.
European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said Tuesday that she is ready to return to Cairo to help facilitate a way out of the country's crisis, the Agence France-Presse reported.
"I told the Egyptian prime minister at the weekend that I would be more than willing to go back to Egypt if they wish me to come back," Ashton told reporters, AFP reported.
Ashton has visited Cairo twice since Morsi's ouster and was the first foreign official to visit him in detention. Morsi is still being held in an undisclosed location.
On July 3. Gen. Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi shoved Morsi aside, suspended the nation's 2012 constitution and dissolved the legislature, wiping away millions of votes in free and fair elections.
The Brotherhood and its Islamist allies insisted Morsi was the nation's only legitimate leader since he was democratically elected. Encampments where they gathered to protest the July 3 coup were cleared last week by security forces, and nearly 900 people died in four days of unfolding political violence, according to health ministry figures.
The government says it is fighting "terrorism." In the past week supporters of Morsi have attacked churches, security posts and Christian properties across the country in retaliation for the protest clearings, bolstering the state's position. On Monday, 25 policemen were killed by suspected militants in the Sinai Peninsula.
As deadlock persists, countless Brotherhood leaders and members have been jailed. Mohamed Badie, the movement's supreme guide, was arrested Tuesday from his home in Cairo's Nasr City. He and other Brotherhood leaders will stand trial on Aug. 25.
Former vice president Mohamed ElBaradei, who served in the interim government after Morsi's ouster, will be sued in court for "betrayal of trust," Reuters reported.
The case, filed by an Egyptian law professor, comes after ElBaradei quit the government in protest against authorities' bloody crackdown on protest camps last week. Reports said ElBaradei has left Egypt for his home in Vienna.