Court Orders Mubarak Released as Death Toll Nears 1,000

A Cairo court yesterday ordered former President Hosni Mubarak’s release from prison, and militants in Sinai killed 26 police officers as the death toll from six days of unrest in Egypt approached 1,000.

The Cairo criminal court’s order to free Mubarak, who was toppled in 2011, threatens to inject new tensions in the standoff between the Muslim Brotherhood and the military-supported interim government.

The military removed Brotherhood-backed President Mohamed Mursi on July 3 after days of rallies against him. Since then, Mursi’s ouster has sparked almost-daily protests by his backers that frequently boiled over into deadly clashes. The tumult has made it more difficult for Egypt to emerge from the slowdown that has battered the economy since Mubarak’s fall.

“No doubt there’s a willingness from some elements of the former regime of Mubarak to come back to the Egyptian political landscape,” said Nasser Amin, director of the Arab Center for the Independence of the Judiciary and the Legal Profession. “This doesn’t mean a return of the police state. Those who participated in the Egyptian revolution won’t allow that.”

Mursi has been in military custody since his removal. Yesterday, he was ordered held for 15 more days pending a probe into new claims he incited violence during deadly unrest in December.

Mubarak Cases

Mubarak, ordered freed in connection with a corruption case, could be released within three days, his attorney, Farid ElDib, said by phone yesterday. Mubarak has already been ordered released in connection with two other cases for which he had been jailed, including his role in the deaths of protesters during the 2011 uprising against him.

Another case involving gifts from the state-run Ahram group must be decided before he can be freed, Mahmoud el-Hefnawy, an official with the prosecutor general’s office, said by phone.

Mubarak is being retried in connection with the protester deaths after his life sentence was overturned on appeal.

Youth activists from the group that drove the opposition to Mursi, said Mubarak -- who ruled Egypt for 29 years -- won’t be allowed to govern again.

“The fact that we’re fighting the Brotherhood doesn’t mean we’ll allow the return of the Mubarak regime, simply because both regimes are two sides of the same coin,” said Islam Hammam, a leader of the Tamarod group.

The court ruling came as international censure has mounted since the government cleared out two pro-Mursi protest camps in the Cairo area on Aug. 14, touching off a cycle of violence from which the country has yet to emerge. About 900 civilians and 100 policemen have died since the camps were stormed.

International Response

European Union diplomats met yesterday to discuss a response to the situation, a day after the 28-nation bloc said it would “urgently review” relations with Egypt.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said yesterday that the Obama administration was reviewing aid programs that benefit the Egyptian government.

In Sinai yesterday, militants armed with rocket-propelled grenades killed 25 policemen near the border with the Gaza Strip. The Interior Ministry, in an e-mailed statement, described the incident as a “continuation of the terrorist crimes in Sinai.”

Another officer was shot dead by a rooftop sniper near the city of al-Arish, the ministry said. The peninsula has grown increasingly lawless since Mubarak was pushed from power, and militants operating there have stepped up their attacks on police and soldiers since Mursi’s overthrow.

Egypt Stocks

Egypt’s benchmark EGX 30 stock index fell 0.1 percent at the close yesterday in Cairo after a 3.9 percent decline the previous day.

The government’s borrowing costs rebounded from the lowest in more than two years at an auction of treasury bills yesterday, with the average yield on 12-month notes rising 18 basis points 12.86 percent, according to central bank data on Bloomberg.

Interim President Adly Mansour met with Defense Minister Abdelfatah al-Seesi and Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim to discuss the situation in Sinai, the presidency said in a statement.

Al-Seesi, who led Mursi’s ouster last month, warned Aug. 18 that the military won’t “remain silent before the destruction of the country.” He also urged Islamists to participate in the government’s plan to steer Egypt toward a civilian democracy.

“By launching the attack just hours after al-Seesi’s speech, in which he promised to end violence in Sinai, the Brotherhood and their allies in Sinai are trying to challenge the army and send a message that they don’t care about his remarks,” said retired army general Sameh Seif el-Yazal.

Ban Considered

The government is considering banning the Brotherhood. Hundreds of its members have been detained. Imams who criticize the army or state institutions in their sermons may be suspended, Ahram Gate reported, citing a statement from the ministry of religious endowments.

Deliveries over the next few months of U.S. military hardware for Egypt, from AH-64 Apache helicopters to patrol boats, may be delayed or withheld as the U.S. evaluates how to respond to the turmoil there.

The Obama administration put deliveries of five major procurement programs, including F-16 fighter jets made by Lockheed Martin Corp., “under review,” according to a State Department document sent to Congress and obtained by Bloomberg News. It was dated July 16, two weeks after Mursi was ousted.

“We’re reviewing all aspects of our relationship,” Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told reporters yesterday at the Pentagon when asked whether the Apache deliveries will be delayed. Citing U.S. interests in Egypt and the region, he said the U.S. would use its “limited” ability to influence events to encourage an “inclusive, open democratic process.”

For the year, the administration proposed about $250 million in economic assistance and $1.3 billion for the military.

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