Former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak in his jail cell..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
CAIRO - Egypt's high court overturned on Tuesday the only remaining conviction against Hosni Mubarak and ordered a retrial in his embezzlement case, opening the way for a possible release from jail for the ousted former president.
Mubarak, 86, was sentenced to three years in prison in May for diverting public funds earmarked to renovate presidential palaces and using the money to upgrade family properties. His two sons were given four-year jail terms in the same case.
The man who ruled Egypt for 30 years has been serving his sentence in a military hospital in Cairo.
Now that a retrial has been ordered, judicial sources say Mubarak could walk free as no convictions remain against him.
In November, another court dropped charges against Mubarak for conspiring to kill protesters in the 2011 revolt that toppled him from power, and cleared him in two other graft cases.
He faces retrial for a third and final time over charges of involvement in the death of demonstrators.
The decision to drop the charges in November sparked protests at universities across Egypt and prompted mockery online. At least two people were killed and nine wounded when security forces fired tear gas and birdshot to disperse about 1,000 protesters trying to enter Tahrir Square -- the symbolic heart of the uprising that ousted Mubarak.
The Court of Cassation, which ordered the retrial on Tuesday, did not say if Mubarak would be freed on bail pending his retrial in the outstanding cases.
Many Egyptians who lived through Mubarak's rule view it as a period of autocracy and crony capitalism.
His overthrow led to Egypt's first free election. But the Islamist victor, Mohamed Morsi, was ousted in 2013 by then-army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, following protests against his rule.
Sisi, who went on to win a presidential election last May, launched a fierce crackdown on Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood. Authorities have jailed thousands of Brotherhood supporters and sentenced hundreds to death in mass trials that drew international criticism.
By contrast, Mubarak-era figures are slowly being cleared of charges and a series of laws curtailing political freedoms have raised fears among activists that the old leadership is regaining influence.
Tuesday's verdict was seen by political opponents as the latest sign that rights won in 2011 are being eroded.