Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, shown here on trial in 2011, may be released from prison in the next 48 hours. (Source: Reuters)
A disturbing development in Egypt today means that a civil war is increasingly likely in the unstable nation. Following many delays in the trial of ousted dictator Hosni Mubarak, prosecutors have now cleared him of most corruption charges, and he is set to be freed from jail within the next 48 hours, according to his lawyer. Mubarak's freedom, timed with the Muslim Brotherhood's planned week of protests, may spark a revolt of some kind, leading into civil war and undermining efforts made by the country during the Arab Spring.
Hosni Mubarak has been detained since his ouster on February 11, 2011 as President of Egypt, following the Egyptian Revolution that started on January 25. The revolution, one of the key movements that led to the Arab Spring movement that spread to other Arab nations, led eventually to the writing of a new Egyptian constitution and the election of President Mohammed Morsi. Mubarak was charged with corruption, and with ordering the murders of protesters during the revolution. While acquitted of ordering the protesters' murder, he was convicted in 2012 of complicity in allowing the murders to happen, which carried a life sentence.
However, earlier this year, the Egyptian court of appeals, made up of judges appointed during Mubarak's run as president, overturned his life sentence, and ordered a retrial on the killings. While he was to be held in custody over remaining corruption cases, those have been cleared up, as Mubarak has been acquitted on one case. Mubarak's lawyer, Fareed el-Deeb, notes that the remaining case requires an "administrative procedure" which would take 48 hours to complete.
Judicial authorities have countered this, saying it would take up to two weeks before Mubarak can be freed. Still, the prospect of Mubarak's freedom being real comes not only during the planned protests in response to President Morsi's own ouster last month, but also as Islamist militants attack a police bus convoy in the Sinai Peninsula, killing 25 off-duty cops. Such a move would only strain the already suspect distrust Egypt has towards its military. From such standpoints, it only takes a few incidents to turn this already tense situation into something violent very quickly.