Egyptian army soldiers stand guard in front of the Torah prison, where former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak is being held, in Cairo, yesterday.
CAIRO: An Egyptian court yesterday ordered ex-president Hosni Mubarak freed while he stands trial accused of corruption and killing protesters, as authorities pressed their roundup of supporters of his ousted Islamist successor.
Hours later, prime minister Hazem Al Beblawi, acting deputy military ruler during the state of emergency, ordered Mubarak to be placed under house arrest if released.
The decision to free Mubarak added a volatile new element to the political turmoil that has gripped Egypt since Mohammed Mursi was ousted as president in a July 3 coup, with 1,000 people killed in violence in the past week.
The unrest has prompted international criticism, and EU foreign ministers agreed in an emergency meeting yesterday to suspend the sale of arms and security equipment to Egypt.
Last year, Mubarak was convicted of complicity in the deaths of some of the 850 people killed in the 2011 uprising that overthrew him, as well as on charges of corruption.
He was sentenced to life in prison, but an appeals court ordered a retrial on technicalities.
Should he be released from jail, he will be placed under house arrest and still face those charges. His next hearing is scheduled for Sunday.
Under Beblawi’s order, Mubarak would be confined to his home, possibly a residence in Cairo or in the Rea Sea resort of Sharm El Sheikh.
“In the framework of the emergency law, the deputy military ruler ordered Mubarak to be placed under house arrest,” a cabinet statement said.
Meanwhile, authorities continued to round up members of Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood movement.
Overnight, they detained Islamist firebrand Safwat Hegazy and Mourad Ali, a spokesman for the group’s Freedom and Justice Party.
Since the army ousted Mursi after massive demonstrations against him, authorities have issued hundreds of detention orders and arrest warrants for Brotherhood members.
A Brotherhood-led coalition however yesterday defiantly called for mass rallies on Friday, in a test of its remaining strength as more members are arrested.
Dozens of the group’s leaders have been rounded up, including its supreme guide Mohamed Badie, who was detained on Tuesday.
It was the first time a Brotherhood supreme guide has been arrested since 1981.
The Brotherhood swiftly named deputy Mahmoud Ezzat, described by experts as a “hawk” and conservative, to serve as interim guide.
Badie and two other senior Brotherhood leaders are expected to appear on Sunday before a court on allegations they incited the murder of protesters in front of their headquarters on June 30.
Egypt has experienced a week of unprecedented political bloodletting, which began on August 14 when security forces stormed two Cairo pro-Mursi protest camps.
The crackdown and resulting violence across the country killed nearly 600 people in a single day, the bloodiest in Egypt’s recent history.
Islamists have torched and attacked dozens of Christian churches, schools, businesses and homes — mostly in the rural south — accusing Egypt’s sizeable Coptic minority of backing Mursi’s ouster.
The deadly dispersals of the protest camps were followed by days of violence that have seen the country’s toll rise to nearly 1,000 dead, including 37 Islamist prisoners who died in custody on Sunday night.
That excludes the toll in the Sinai peninsula, where militants have launched near daily attacks against police and army facilities.
On Monday, 25 policemen were killed in a single incident, when gunmen dragged them from two buses and shot them dead execution style near the border with the Gaza Strip.
The incident prompted national condemnation and mourning and brought the week’s toll in Sinai alone to 45, according to an AFP count.
The international community has been shocked by the violence.
The European Union decided yesterday to restrict exports of security equipment and arms to Egypt in response to the mounting violence but opted to maintain economic assistance.