Get ready for Mubarak Fever to add to the chaos on the streets of Egypt. A court ruled this morning that Hosni Mubarak must be released from prison, a move that will enrage Islamists in and out of the Muslim Brotherhood — and might not be too popular with anyone else, either:
Officials say an Egyptian court has ordered the release of ex-President Hosni Mubarak, but it’s not immediately clear whether the prosecutors will appeal the order.
The Wednesday decision comes in a hearing on charges against Mubarak of accepting gifts from a state-owned newspaper, the last case that has kept the ailing leader in detention.
Unless the military-imposed government files an objection, Mubarak may walk out of prison as early as tomorrow:
Deposed Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak will leave jail as early as Thursday after a court ruling that jolted a divided nation already in turmoil seven weeks after the army toppled Islamist President Mohamed Mursi.
Convening on Wednesday at the Cairo jail where Mubarak is held, the court upheld a petition from his lawyer demanding the release of the man who ruled Egypt for 30 years until he was overthrown during the uprisings that swept the Arab world in early 2011.
Judicial and security sources said the court had ordered Mubarak’s release. His lawyer, Fareed al-Deeb, confirmed this as he left Tora prison after the session. Asked when Mubarak would go free, he told Reuters: “Maybe tomorrow”.
Reuters notes that the octagenarian probably will not return to public life, and the military government has enough problems as it is. Still, the release of the man who imposed a military state of emergency for more than 30 years and ruled by decree at about the same time as the military-imposed government just announced a new state of emergency may provide a little too much nostalgia for Egyptians who were overwhelmingly glad to see Mubarak go in the first place. It’s not going to make General Abdel Fatah al-Sissi’s job any easier.
The coincidences don’t end there, either. As Mubarak prepares to exit prison, al-Sissi’s government keeps sending more Islamists to take his place:
Egyptian authorities on Wednesday continued their crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood and its allies by arresting two more high-profile Islamist figures, while officials said that they had started a closed hearing in a prison outside Cairo on whether to release jailed ex-president Hosni Mubarak.
The arrested Islamists include a preacher known for his fiery sermons who was reportedly caught as he tried to flee to neighboring Libya in disguise, and a spokesman for the Brotherhood said to be on his way to catch a flight out of the country.
They are the latest allies of President Mohammed Morsi, who hails from the Brotherhood, to be arrested. On Tuesday authorities detained the Brotherhood’s supreme leader and spiritual guide, Mohammed Badie, dealing a serious blow to an embattled movement now struggling to keep up its protest campaign against the military’s overthrow of Morsi and subsequent deadly assaults on pro-Morsi sit-ins.
If al-Sissi is smart, he’ll arrange for a comfortable exile for Mubarak, rather than allow him to stick around and become a flashpoint for further violence. At least until the interim government makes progress toward democratization and reconciliation, the presence of a former dictator will prove too destabilizing and polarizing, especially when al-Sissi is spending his time rounding up the usual suspects and tossing them into prison.