Egypt crisis: Court to rule on Mubarak release

Arab World Materials 21 August 2013 07:31 (UTC +04:00)

An Egyptian court is due to review a petition for the release of deposed President Hosni Mubarak, BBC reported.

Mubarak is facing a retrial for complicity in the deaths of protesters during the 2011 uprising that ended in his removal from power.

However, his lawyer hopes he will be released once cleared of a corruption charge.

Meanwhile, EU foreign ministers are due to decide whether to cut some of its billions of euros in aid to Egypt.

The EU has strongly condemned the military-backed interim government's crackdown on Islamists following the ousting of President Mohammed Morsi last month.

In a separate development, a Egyptian Coptic Church website has been hacked, apparently by Morsi supporters.

The www.Copticpope.com site was suspended after a picture of a group of pro-Morsi demonstrators appeared on its front page, with a text that read: "Nobody will rule Egypt but Islamists, God willing. Christians, [army chief Gen Abdul Fattah] al-Sisi supporters and thugs to hell."

Correspondents say the Church has been at a heart of recent events, with Coptic Pope Tawadros II supporting the overthrow of President Morsi.

Mubarak, 85, was convicted in June 2012 of conspiring in the killing of protesters in 2011 and sentenced to life in jail.

But in January 2013 an appeal against his conviction was upheld and a retrial ordered.

That retrial opened in May but Mubarak has served the maximum amount of pre-trial detention permitted in the case.

Mubarak's lawyer Fareed al-Dib said he expected his client to be freed after a court ordered his release in one of the remaining corruption cases against him.

However, the public prosecution is expected to appeal against the release, potentially delaying his actual departure from the prison for several days.

The case relates to claims that the former president received gifts from state-run publisher Al-Ahram.

Correspondents say his family has paid back the value of the alleged gifts, strengthening his lawyer's confidence that Mubarak will be released.

The appeals court will meet in the prison where Mubarak is being held.

"I will give my defence and if God is willing... there will be no reason for him to be held in temporary detention," Mr Dib told Reuters TV.

Analysts say Mubarak's release, if it happens, would be seen by many as a sign the military is rolling back the changes that flowed from the 2011 uprising.

Egypt is under a state of emergency as the interim government cracks down on Islamists opposed to the army's ousting of Mr Morsi.

Last week, security forces broke up two Cairo protest camps set up by supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood - from which Mr Morsi hails - with the loss of hundreds of lives.

The crackdown brought strong international condemnation.

EU foreign ministers are due to meet in Brussels to review the bloc's ties with Egypt.

The European Union has said that nearly five billion euros ($6.7bn;£4.2bn) in aid to Egypt is under review.

The US has cancelled military exercises with Egypt in the wake of the violence and has been under pressure to make cuts to the $1.3bn (£830m) in annual military aid it gives to the country.

President Barack Obama chaired a meeting of his National Security Council to review aid to Egypt on Tuesday afternoon, but the meeting produced no imminent changes to US policy, officials said.

Hundreds of members of the Muslim Brotherhood - the movement from which Mr Morsi comes - have been detained including its most senior leader, Mohammed Badie.

Mr Badie, who was wanted over alleged incitement to violence and murder, was arrested overnight on Monday in a flat in Nasr City in north-east Cairo, near the site of one of the protest camps broken up by security forces last week.

The Muslim Brotherhood has condemned his arrest and vowed to continue with peaceful protests.