CAIRO - Egypt's former autocrat Hosni Mubarak was flown from
jail on Thursday in a symbolic victory for an army-dominated old order that has
overthrown and imprisoned his freely elected Islamist successor.
blue-and-white helicopter took Mubarak from Cairo's Tora prison, where scores of
his supporters had gathered to hail his release. He was flown to a military
hospital in the nearby southern suburb of Maadi, officials said.
protected the country," said Lobna Mohamed, a housewife in the crowd of Mubarak
well-wishers. "He is a good man, but we want (Abdel Fattah) Sisi now," she said,
referring to the army commander who overthrew Islamist Mohamed Morsi on July
For Mubarak's enemies, the moment marked a reversal of the Jan. 2011
pro-democracy uprising that brought him down after three decades in power as one
of the pillars of authoritarian rule in the Middle East.
Egyptians, many of whom have rallied behind the army's decision to depose Mursi,
expressed fondness for the 85-year-old former air force commander whose tight
grip on power brought stability.
Judicial authorities had ordered
Mubarak's release from Tora. His lawyer and other sources said earlier that his
first destination would be an upscale hospital northeast of Cairo.
prime minister's office has said Mubarak will be placed under house
That decision was made under a month-long state of emergency
declared last week when police stormed protest camps set up in Cairo by deposed
leader Mursi's Muslim Brotherhood to call for his
According to official sources, about 900 people, including
some 100 soldiers and police, have been killed in violence across Egypt since
then, making it the bloodiest bout of internal strife in the country's modern
history as a republic. The Brotherhood says the toll is even higher. Most of the
victims were gunned down by security forces.
In the latest violence,
gunmen in a car killed an army major and a soldier near the Suez Canal city of
Ismailia, security sources said. Two soldiers were wounded. The assailants
Mubarak's release dismayed some Egyptians.
stay in prison. The country is facing obstacles so people are turning back to
Mubarak. They don't know what they are doing," said Hoda Saleh, a fully veiled
woman who was leaving Tora, where her brother is an inmate.
who watch Egypt, the symbolism was powerful.
"This is the end. Mubarak
will never be an important political player, but symbolically, it's a victory
dance by the reconstituted old state under the leadership of the Supreme Council
of the Armed Forces," said Joshua Stacher, an Egypt expert at Kent State
University in the United States.
Mubarak was sentenced to life in prison
last year for failing to prevent the killing of demonstrators. But a court
accepted his appeal earlier this year and ordered a retrial in the case, for
which he has already served the maximum amount of pretrial detention. Mubarak
was arrested in April, 2011.
This week, two court rulings in separate
corruption cases removed the last legal grounds for his continued detention,
although he will not be allowed to leave Egypt and his assets remain
"WE LOVE MUBARAK" At the Maadi hospital where he was taken, there
were few signs of extra security for Mubarak apart from three police cars parked
around the corner. Soldiers guarded the main gate, across a tree-lined boulevard
from a Nile restaurant and boat club.
Patients and visitors on foot and
in cars came and went from the white- and green-painted medical complex which
resembles a beach hotel, with palm trees and landscaped gardens.
prison he left behind, Mohamed Hussein, a 36-year-old jobless man waiting
outside to visit a jailed relative, said: "We love Mubarak." His sister Fatheya
chimed in: "Isn't it enough that for 30 years he did not drag us into a war, and
let us live in dignity?" A brief commotion occurred when the daughter of a
jailed Brotherhood leader, Khairat al-Shater, berated journalists awaiting
Mubarak's release. "Why are you waiting for Mubarak?" Khadija al-Shater asked.
"We Islamists are in jail in there." As several Egyptian journalists shouted at
her to answer for the deaths of police officers in the unrest, she said she had
been denied access to her imprisoned father. Asked if he had seen a lawyer, she
told Reuters: "His lawyer is in jail." Mubarak's release plays into the
Brotherhood's argument that the military is trying to rehabilitate the old
order. The army-installed government casts its conflict with the Islamist
movement as a life-or-death struggle against terrorism.
upheaval has gripped Egypt since Mursi's removal by the army on July 3, just
over a year after he was elected.
The military's declared plan for a
return to democracy has yet to calm the most populous Arab nation, where
security forces impose a nightly curfew as they hunt down Brotherhood
The clampdown appears to have weakened the Arab world's oldest
and arguably most influential Islamist group, which won five successive votes in
Egypt in the two and a half years since Mubarak fell.
"FRIDAY OF MARTYRS"
The Brotherhood's ability to stage pro-Mursi demonstrations has faded in the
past few days. One of its spokesmen, Ahmed Aref, was arrested on Thursday, the
state news agency reported.
Brotherhood supporters have nevertheless
called on Egyptians to hold marches on the weekly Muslim prayer day, billed as a
"Friday of Martyrs", against the army takeover.
A pro-Mursi alliance
called the National Coalition to Support Legitimacy said in a statement: "We
will remain steadfast on the road to defeating the military coup." Alarmed by
the bloodshed, the United States and European Union are reviewing their aid to
Cairo. Saudi Arabia, a foe of the Brotherhood, has promised to cover any
shortfall. It and other rich Gulf Arab states have already pledged $12 billion
since Mursi's fall.
EU foreign ministers stopped short of agreeing
immediate cuts in aid to Egypt on Wednesday, in part because of concern that
doing so could damage any future EU mediation effort.
An EU attempt to
broker a compromise collapsed before security forces cleared out the Brotherhood
James Moran, the bloc's ambassador in the Egyptian
capital, described reconciliation prospects as a huge
"Passions are high, emotions are high. Things have to cool off
a little bit," he said, skirting a question on whether the Brotherhood is
committed to terrorism, as state media contend.
"It would be good if this
is not all painted one colour. There may be different strains of opinion within
the Islamist movement," he said. "One thing is for sure - the Islamist
constituency is there, and you are going to have to find a way somehow of living
with it." A senior United Nations official, Jeffrey Feltman, met interim Prime
Minister Hazem el-Beblawi on Thursday as part of an effort to promote peace and
The government has bristled at foreign attempts to use
aid or persuasion to nudge it to seek a political compromise.
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