CAIRO – Wearing a white T-shirt and flashing a smile, Hosni Mubarak was transferred from prison Thursday to a military hospital where he will be under house arrest, a reversal of fortune for the former president who was ousted by a popular uprising and is on trial for complicity in the killing of protesters in 2011.
The release of the 85-year-old Mubarak comes amid a sweeping crackdown against the Muslim Brotherhood, which rose to power after the revolution only to see their Islamist president – Mohammed Morsi – toppled by a military coup last month.
Many feared the decision to let Mubarak out of prison at such a tense time would serve as a rallying cry for Morsi’s supporters against the country’s interim leaders.
Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi ordered Mubarak placed under house arrest as part of emergency measures imposed last week after security forces forcibly dismantled two pro-Morsi protest camps, triggering a wave of violence that has killed more than 1,000 people.
The decision came after anti-Morsi groups called on the interim leadership to use the emergency measures to keep Mubarak locked up, arguing that his release posed a threat to national security. The decision to place the ex-president under house arrest instead of letting him go free appeared designed to ease some of the criticism.