Mubarak’s release a symbolic victory for old guard

Egypt’s former autocrat Hosni Mubarak was flown from jail yesterday in a symbolic victory for an army-dominated old order that has overthrown and imprisoned his freely elected Islamist successor.

Hosni Mubarak, 85, is escorted into an ambulance at the Maadi Military Hospital yesterday. Picture: AP Photo/Amr Nabil

A blue-and-white helicopter took Mubarak from Cairo’s Tora prison, where scores of his supporters had gathered to hail his release. He was flown to a military hospital in the nearby southern suburb of Maadi, officials said.

“He protected the country,” said Lobna Mohamed, a housewife in the crowd of Mubarak well-wishers.

“He is a good man, but we want (Abdel Fattah) Sisi now,” she said, referring to the army commander who overthrew Mohamed Morsi on Jul 3.

For Mubarak’s enemies, the moment marked a reversal of the Jan 2011 pro-democracy uprising that brought him down after three decades in power as one of the pillars of authoritarian rule in the Middle East.

Some Egyptians, many of whom have rallied behind the army’s decision to depose Morsi, expressed fondness for the 85-year-old former air force commander whose tight grip on power brought stability.

Judicial authorities had ordered Mubarak’s release from Tora.

His lawyer said earlier that his first destination would be an upscale hospital northeast of Cairo.

The prime minister’s office has said Mubarak will be placed under house arrest. That decision was made under a month-long state of emergency declared last week when police stormed protest camps set up in Cairo by deposed leader Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood to call for his reinstatement.

Mubarak’s release dismayed some Egyptians.

“He should stay in prison. The country is facing obstacles, so people are turning back to Mubarak. They don’t know what they are doing,” said Hoda Saleh, a fully veiled woman who was leaving Tora.

To outsiders, the symbolism was powerful.

“This is the end. Mubarak will never be an important political player, but symbolically it’s a victory dance by the reconstituted old state under the leadership of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces,” said Joshua Stacher, an Egypt expert at Kent State University in the United States.

Meanwhile, in the latest violence, gunmen killed an army major and a soldier near the Suez Canal city of Ismailia, security sources said.

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