Egypt’s high court on Tuesday overturned the only remaining conviction against former president Hosni Mubarak, opening the way for his possible release four years after the revolution that toppled him.
Mubarak, 86, was sentenced to three years in prison last May for diverting public funds earmarked to renovate presidential palaces and using the money to upgrade family properties. His two sons were given four-year jail terms in the same case.
Suffering from ill health, he has been serving his sentence in a military hospital in the upscale Maadi district of Cairo.
Mubarak remains detained for now, but judicial sources say he could soon walk free as no convictions remain against him after the high court ordered a retrial in the embezzlement case.
His release, while thousands of his political opponents languish in jail, would be a further blow to activists who had hoped his downfall in the 2011 Arab Spring marked the dawn of a new era of political freedom in Egypt.
Tuesday’s verdict follows a court decision in November to drop charges against Mubarak of conspiring to kill protesters in the uprising that ended his 30-year rule. That ruling led to protests in which at least two people were killed.
“After the release of police officers charged with killing demonstrators and of Mubarak aides, and his acquittal over the killing of protesters, this is not shocking news,” said Khaled Dawoud, spokesman for the opposition Dostour Party, 10 of whose members are behind bars for taking part in peaceful protests.
“But I don’t think Mubarak is the issue any more. The Egyptian people gave their verdict against him four years ago.”