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Mubarak could possibly go free


August 19. 2013 10:29PM
HAMZA HENDAWI Associated Press



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CAIRO — Jailed ex-Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak could be released later this week, judicial officials said Monday, a move that would fuel the unrest roiling the country after the autocratic leader's successor was removed in a military coup.
Underscoring the growing anger over Mohammed Morsi's ouster, suspected Islamic militants ambushed two minibuses carrying off-duty policemen in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, forcing the men to lie on the sand and shooting 25 of them dead.
The brazen daylight attack raised fears that the strategic desert region bordering Israel and the Gaza Strip could be plunged into insurgency.
The 25 were given a funeral with full military honors after a plane brought their bodies to an air base in eastern Cairo. Interior Minister Mohammed Ibrahim, who is in charge of the police, and the army's Chief of Staff, Gen. Sobhi Saleh, led the funeral.
The coffins of the victims were draped in red, white and black Egyptian flags and, in a show of solidarity, were jointly carried in the funeral procession by army soldiers and policemen. Earlier, relatives and friends wept over the coffins.
Despite the violence, Cairo, a bustling metropolis of some 18 million people, began to restore a sense of normalcy although the capital remained under a state of emergency and a dusk-to-dawn curfew.
During his decades ruling Egypt, Mubarak frequently warned that Egypt would fall into chaos without him at the helm.
The 85-year-old former president has been in detention since April 2011, weeks after he was ousted in a revolution against his rule.
He was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison in June last year for his failure to stop the killing of some 900 protesters in the 18-day uprising. His sentence was overturned on appeal and he is now being retried, along with his security chief and six top police commanders.
Two judicial officials, however, said there will no longer be any grounds to hold the 85-year-old former president if a court accepts a petition by his lawyer requesting his release in a corruption case later this week.
Many analysts, however, expressed skepticism, saying the political cost of letting the former leader who was widely hated for widespread abuses and repression during his 29 years in power could keep him in jail.
However, his release during one of the worst bouts of turmoil since his ouster could be a huge risk for the military-backed government and authorities will likely decide to keep him in custody.
Tensions in Egypt have soared since the army ousted Morsi, who was Egypt's first freely elected president, in a July 3 coup following days of protests by millions of Egyptians demanding the Islamist president step down and accusing him of abusing his powers.
On Wednesday, the military raided two protest camps of Morsi's supporters in Cairo, killing hundreds of people and triggering the current wave of violence.
Human Rights Watch, in a report released on Monday, accused Egyptian security forces of using excessive force when they moved on Wednesday to clear the larger of two sit-in protest camps. The New York-based group said the assault amounted to the “most serious incident of mass unlawful killings in modern Egyptian history.”
HRW put the death toll from that sit-in camp, in an eastern Cairo district, at 377, and called on authorities to reverse a recent decision authorizing the use of deadly force by security forces when they come under attack or when key government facilities are assaulted.
In all, nearly 1,000 people were killed in the crackdown and the clashes that erupted between Morsi's supporters and security forces.
Morsi's supporters have fought back, staging demonstrations demanding that he be reinstated and denouncing the military coup.



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