THE two sons of ousted Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak were released from prison yesterday, nearly four years after being arrested along with their father.
Security officials said wealthy businessman Alaa and Mubarak’s one-time heir apparent, Gamal, walked free from Tora Prison in Cairo shortly after daybreak and headed to their respective homes in the capital’s upmarket Heliopolis suburb.
In May, the brothers were sentenced to four years in prison for embezzlement, but that conviction was overturned earlier this month after it was ruled that legal procedures had not been followed properly and a retrial ordered. They have now served the maximum pre-trial detention period.
Separately, they also face trial on insider trading charges, a date for which has yet to be set.
They were previously acquitted of other charges of corruption relating to the sale of land.
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Mr Mubarak, 86 and ailing, stepped down in February 2011 in the face of a popular uprising and his sons were arrested in April that year along with him.
Mr Mubarak remains at a military hospital in a Cairo suburb although there are no longer legal grounds for his detention.
The release of his sons had been expected since a court ordered their release on bail last Thursday.
The sons were sentenced to four years on charges of using state funds to renovate family residencies while their father received three years in the case.
Mr Mubarak was sentenced to life in prison in 2012 for failing to prevent the killing of some 900 protesters during the 18-day uprising against his rule but the verdict was overturned and the case dismissed last month on a technicality.
Mr Mubarak’s sons walked free a day after deadly clashes between anti-government protesters and police on the fourth anniversary of the uprising.
Sunday’s violence left at least 23 people dead – including three men authorities said died planting bombs and three police officers – while 97 were injured.
The Mubarak sons, particularly Gamal, are viewed by many Egyptians as part of a corrupt regime that made deals with mega-wealthy businessmen at the expense of the nation’s poor.
Gamal’s apparent grooming for succession to the presidency was among the causes of the popular uprising and the release of him and his brother could spark further protests by fuelling the notion among liberal activists that the Mubarak regime is making a comeback.
The fatal shootings of two female protesters over the weekend have stoked renewed anger over excessive force by the police.
The death of Shaimaa el-Sabagh, 32, was captured on several videos that suggest the police are to blame, say activists.
In an unusually critical column published yesterday, the chairman of Egypt’s state-run Al-Ahram newspaper called out the president as being responsible for protecting protesters.
“The rights of Shaimaa rest on our shoulders, especially on those of the elected president [el-Sissi], who is in charge of protecting the lives of the children of this nation at least from the abuse of authority,” wrote Ahmed Sayed el-Naggar.
El-Naggar also warned that such abuses are alienating youth groups as well as el-Sissi’s own supporters, bringing “the state closer to the policies that people revolted against in the first place.”