Hosni Mubarak, the man whose 30-year tyranny as Egypt’s leader triggered a revolt which shook the Middle East, will be freed from prison by the end of the week, his lawyer claimed.
Many Egyptians, plagued by violence and insecurity, will welcome the return of the former President; others will greet his release with indifference. For some, the development will mark the most obvious confirmation yet that the military establishment still reigns supreme and the gains of the Egyptian revolution are being lost.
Mubarak, who was arrested shortly after being toppled in February 2011, is currently being held in the Tora Prison in south Cairo.
Among his fellow inmates are senior Brotherhood figures rounded up since the 3 July popular coup .
Following an appeal against his original conviction for involvement in the killing of protesters, the only grounds for the former President’s continued detention rest on a separate corruption case relating to gifts he received during his time in power. But Mubarak’s lawyer, Farid el-Deeb, said that case would soon be resolved.
“All we have left is a simple administrative procedure that should take no more than 48 hours,” Mr Deeb told the Reuters news agency. “He should be freed by the end of the week.”
There was speculation, however, that further charges could be brought against Mubarak, or else authorities would find another reason to keep the former air force chief detained. A judicial source, speaking to Reuters, said Mubarak would spend at least two more weeks behind bars before the criminal court made a final decision in the outstanding case against him.
In an ironic twist, the ruling on Mubarak’s fate came as it was announced that new charges were being brought against his successor, the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi, for inciting violence.
As the battle over the fate of Egypt’s former presidents went on, the Egyptian news bulletins were filled with yet more examples of brutal violence.
In North Sinai, a largely lawless region which has long been plagued by Islamic militancy, 25 policemen were killed after their minibuses were ambushed by gunmen. Egyptian officials said the men were ordered off the vehicles and then shot dead in a mass-execution style killing.
The attack followed the deaths of 36 prisoners who had been rounded up following the weekend violence in Cairo. There were conflicting accounts of exactly how the prisoners died, but they had been on their way to a prison north of the capital in a large convoy containing hundreds of detainees.
Following last Wednesday’s state-led massacre of several hundred Islamists – an event which Human Rights Watch described yesterday as the “most serious incident of mass unlawful killings in modern Egyptian history” – the worsening security situation has fed into an impression of a nation at war with itself.
Muslims and Christians – who in Tahrir Square were once declared to be “on one hand”, in the words of the famous revolutionary chant – are now more fearful of each other than ever, especially since the wave of church attacks carried out by Islamists since last week.
Some activists are attempting to tread a pathway through the deepening fear and polarisation. The recently established Masmoua, or “Heard” campaign, aims to encourage Egyptians against veering to the extremes of either the Brotherhood or the military.
One Egyptian writer, speaking to The Independent yesterday, expressed a cynicism felt by many Egyptian activists after the events of recent days. “Everything I worked for over the past two and a half years has gone down the drain,” he said.