CAIRO — A court ordered former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak freed from prison Wednesday in a stunning turn of fortunes that highlights the prospect that the old guard is re-emerging amid unrelenting political unrest after the nation’s 2011 revolution.
The court ruled that the 85-year-old Mubarak be released from Tora prison after a financial corruption charge against him was set aside. It was unclear if the toppled leader would be freed immediately or remain in custody, pending an appeal by the prosecution, according to his lawyer, Yousry Adel Razek.
Mubarak, who has lately only been glimpsed peering from behind sunglasses in a defendant’s cage, is still on trial for murder-related charges in the deaths of more than 800 protesters during the uprising against him.
The court ordered his release after he had paid restitution in connection with graft charges that he received illegal gifts from the state-run al-Ahram newspaper. He had earlier been granted bail on the murder charges, and the judicial time limits to hold him in connection with other cases had expired.
His possible release is a major setback to activists who instigated a revolution that had promised to create a new democracy for the Arab world’s most populous state. But with the military back in control in a battle against the Muslim Brotherhood, it now appears that the remnants of Mubarak’s 30-year-old police state are again edging toward power.
Much of the nation has moved beyond the intrigue of Mubarak’s legal saga. Unemployment, economic turmoil and persistent political divisions, including the recent deaths of more than 900 supporters of deposed Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, have focused attention elsewhere. But the latest development in the Mubarak ordeal indicates that the tumult of the last two years may have brought the nation full circle.
“If freed from jail, Mubarak can’t travel,” tweeted The Big Pharaoh. “There’s still a life sentence court verdict he is appealing. But freeing him (equals) wrong message sent.”