Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who is on retrial for the killings of hundreds of protesters during the 2011 uprising that led to his ouster, could be released from custody later this week, judicial officials said Monday.
The officials said there were no longer any grounds to hold the 85-year-old former autocrat because of the expiration of a two-year legal limit for holding an individual in custody pending a final verdict.
Mubarak has been in detention since April 2011. He was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison in June last year for his failure to stop the killing of some 900 protesters in the 18-day uprising against his rule. His sentence was overturned on appeal and he is now being retried, along with his security chief and six top police commanders.
Monday’s stunning announcement came as security forces said suspected Islamic militants ambushed two mini-buses carrying off-duty policemen in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, forcing the men out onto the pavement and shooting 25 of them dead. The brazen daylight attack deepened the turmoil roiling the country and underscored the volatility of the strategic region.
Monday’s killings, which took place near the border town of Rafah in northern Sinai, came a day after security forces killed 36 detainees during a riot on a prison-bound truck convoy north of Cairo. In all, nearly 1,000 people have been killed in violence between security forces and supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi since last Wednesday. The government has ordered an investigation into their deaths.
A few hours after the attack near Rafah, suspected militants shot to death a police major as he stood guard outside a bank in the city of el-Arish, also in northern Sinai, security officials said.
Tensions in Egypt have soared since the army ousted Morsi, Mubarak’s successor, in a July 3 coup following days of protests by millions of Egyptians demanding the Islamist president leave and accusing him of abusing his powers.