CAIRO – Egyptian authorities have exhausted all legal grounds to keep deposed President Hosni Mubarak in detention after an appeals court on Tuesday ordered his retrial in a corruption case, a judicial official said.
The corruption case was the only one still keeping Mubarak behind bars. The autocratic former president has already been cleared over the killings of protesters during Egypt's 2011 uprising that toppled him.
The ruling Tuesday by the Appeals Court — a top court based in Cairo — overturned an earlier verdict, which had sentenced Mubarak to three years' imprisonment and his two sons, Alaa and Gamal, to four years in prison each while four other defendants in the case were acquitted. Mubarak's lawyers had appealed that verdict.
Though the ruling paved way for Mubarak's imminent release, there was no explicit statement from the authorities that he would leave the hospital in Cairo where he was held in custody a free man. There were also conflicting remarks over whether the release would take place.
An official at the chief prosecutor's office told The Associated Press that "paperwork was being processed" for Mubarak's release. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to media, declined to speculate if and when that could happen.
However, an unnamed security official told the state-run news agency MENA that Mubarak will remain in detention since the Appeals Court ruling didn't include a release order.
In the case of the killings protesters, a judge ruled that the charges were "inadmissible" on a technicality. But the same judge also described the uprising — one of the first that swept the region in what later became known as the Arab Spring — as part of an all alleged "American-Hebrew conspiracy" to undermine Arab countries for Israel's benefit.
That ruling was a blow to the pro-democracy groups and youth groups that spearheaded the "revolution" against Mubarak.
The corruption case — dubbed by Egyptian media as the "presidential palaces" affair — is linked to charges that the three Mubaraks embezzled millions of dollars' worth of state funds over a decade toward the end of Mubarak's rule. The funds were meant for renovating and maintaining presidential palaces but were instead spent on upgrading the family's private residences.
Mubarak and his sons were also fined 21.1 million Egyptian pounds ($2.9 million) and ordered to reimburse 125 million Egyptian pounds ($17.6 million) to the state treasury.
The Mubaraks had returned around 120 million Egyptian pounds to the state in connection with this case in the hope that the charges would be dropped, but the proceedings against them continued anyway.