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Egypt’s Mubarak May Be Set Free

  • In this image obtained from an Egyptian emergency service worker which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, bodies of off-duty policemen who were killed near the border town of Rafah, North Sinai, Egypt, lie on the ground Monday, Aug. 19, 2013. Islamic militants on Monday ambushed two mini-buses carrying off-duty policemen in the northern region of Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, killing more than two dozen of them execution-style in a brazen daylight attack that deepens the turmoil roiling the country and underscores the volatility of the strategic region. (AP Photo)

    In this image obtained from an Egyptian emergency service worker which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, bodies of off-duty policemen who were killed near the border town of Rafah, North Sinai, Egypt, lie on the ground Monday, Aug. 19, 2013. Islamic militants on Monday ambushed two mini-buses carrying off-duty policemen in the northern region of Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, killing more than two dozen of them execution-style in a brazen daylight attack that deepens the turmoil roiling the country and underscores the volatility of the strategic region. (AP Photo)

  • FILE -- In this Saturday, April 13, 2013 file photo, former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak waves to his supporters from behind bars as he attends a hearing in his retrial on appeal in Cairo, Egypt. Egyptian judiciary officials say former President Hosni Mubarak could be freed from custody this week. They say a court on Monday, Aug. 19, 2013 ordered his release in a corruption case that alleged he and his two sons embezzled funds for presidential palaces. (AP Photo, File)

    FILE -- In this Saturday, April 13, 2013 file photo, former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak waves to his supporters from behind bars as he attends a hearing in his retrial on appeal in Cairo, Egypt. Egyptian judiciary officials say former President Hosni Mubarak could be freed from custody this week. They say a court on Monday, Aug. 19, 2013 ordered his release in a corruption case that alleged he and his two sons embezzled funds for presidential palaces. (AP Photo, File)

  • In this Sunday, Aug. 18, 2013 photo, an Egyptian armored vehicle and army soldiers stand guard outside the main Christian Orthodox Cathedral in the southern city of Assiut, Egypt. In the five days since security forces cleared two sit-in camps by supporters of Egypt's ousted president, Islamists have attacked dozens of Coptic churches along with homes and businesses owned by the Christian minority. The campaign of intimidation appears to be a warning to Christians outside Cairo to stand down from political activism. (AP Photo/Roger Anis, El Shorouk Newspaper) EGYPT OUT

    In this Sunday, Aug. 18, 2013 photo, an Egyptian armored vehicle and army soldiers stand guard outside the main Christian Orthodox Cathedral in the southern city of Assiut, Egypt. In the five days since security forces cleared two sit-in camps by supporters of Egypt's ousted president, Islamists have attacked dozens of Coptic churches along with homes and businesses owned by the Christian minority. The campaign of intimidation appears to be a warning to Christians outside Cairo to stand down from political activism. (AP Photo/Roger Anis, El Shorouk Newspaper) EGYPT OUT

  • Supporters of Egypt's ousted President Mohammed Morsi, pictured, raise their hands and four fingers, a sign that protesters say symbolizes the Rabaah al-Adawiya mosque in Cairo that was cleared last week by Egyptian security forces, during a march in the Maadi district in Cairo, Egypt, Monday, Aug. 19, 2013. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)

    Supporters of Egypt's ousted President Mohammed Morsi, pictured, raise their hands and four fingers, a sign that protesters say symbolizes the Rabaah al-Adawiya mosque in Cairo that was cleared last week by Egyptian security forces, during a march in the Maadi district in Cairo, Egypt, Monday, Aug. 19, 2013. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)

  • Supporters of Egypt's ousted President Mohammed Morsi, pictured, hold up four fingers, a sign that protesters say symbolizes the Rabaah al-Adawiya mosque in Cairo that was cleared last week by Egyptian security forces, as they march in Maadi, Cairo, Egypt, Monday, Aug. 19, 2013. Arabic on posters reads, "Yes to legitimacy, no to the coup." (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)

    Supporters of Egypt's ousted President Mohammed Morsi, pictured, hold up four fingers, a sign that protesters say symbolizes the Rabaah al-Adawiya mosque in Cairo that was cleared last week by Egyptian security forces, as they march in Maadi, Cairo, Egypt, Monday, Aug. 19, 2013. Arabic on posters reads, "Yes to legitimacy, no to the coup." (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)

  • FILE - In this Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2011 file photo, the Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak sits during his meeting with Emirates foreign minister, not pictured, at the Presidential palace in Cairo, Egypt. Egyptian judiciary officials say former President Hosni Mubarak could be freed from custody this week. They say a court on Monday, Aug. 19, 2013 ordered his release in a corruption case that alleged he and his two sons embezzled funds for presidential palaces. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil, File)

    FILE - In this Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2011 file photo, the Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak sits during his meeting with Emirates foreign minister, not pictured, at the Presidential palace in Cairo, Egypt. Egyptian judiciary officials say former President Hosni Mubarak could be freed from custody this week. They say a court on Monday, Aug. 19, 2013 ordered his release in a corruption case that alleged he and his two sons embezzled funds for presidential palaces. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil, File)

  • Egyptian military and policemen carry coffins, covered with national flags, containing the bodies of off-duty policemen who were killed near the border town of Rafah, North Sinai, upon their arrival at Almaza military airport, Cairo, Egypt, Monday, Aug. 19, 2013. Islamic militants on Monday ambushed two mini-buses carrying off-duty policemen in the northern region of Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, killing more than two dozen of them execution-style in a brazen daylight attack that deepens the turmoil roiling the country and underscores the volatility of the strategic region. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

    Egyptian military and policemen carry coffins, covered with national flags, containing the bodies of off-duty policemen who were killed near the border town of Rafah, North Sinai, upon their arrival at Almaza military airport, Cairo, Egypt, Monday, Aug. 19, 2013. Islamic militants on Monday ambushed two mini-buses carrying off-duty policemen in the northern region of Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, killing more than two dozen of them execution-style in a brazen daylight attack that deepens the turmoil roiling the country and underscores the volatility of the strategic region. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

  • Coffins covered with national flags of bodies of off-duty policemen who were killed near the border town of Rafah, North Sinai, on the ground upon their arrival at Almaza military airport, Cairo, Egypt, Monday, Aug. 19, 2013. Islamic militants on Monday ambushed two mini-buses carrying off-duty policemen in the northern region of Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, killing more than two dozen of them execution-style in a brazen daylight attack that deepens the turmoil roiling the country and underscores the volatility of the strategic region. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

    Coffins covered with national flags of bodies of off-duty policemen who were killed near the border town of Rafah, North Sinai, on the ground upon their arrival at Almaza military airport, Cairo, Egypt, Monday, Aug. 19, 2013. Islamic militants on Monday ambushed two mini-buses carrying off-duty policemen in the northern region of Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, killing more than two dozen of them execution-style in a brazen daylight attack that deepens the turmoil roiling the country and underscores the volatility of the strategic region. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

  • Egyptian military and policemen carry coffins covered with national flags of bodies of off-duty policemen who were killed near the border town of Rafah, North Sinai, upon their arrival at Almaza military airport, Cairo, Egypt, Monday, Aug. 19, 2013. Islamic militants on Monday ambushed two mini-buses carrying off-duty policemen in the northern region of Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, killing more than two dozen of them execution-style in a brazen daylight attack that deepens the turmoil roiling the country and underscores the volatility of the strategic region. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

    Egyptian military and policemen carry coffins covered with national flags of bodies of off-duty policemen who were killed near the border town of Rafah, North Sinai, upon their arrival at Almaza military airport, Cairo, Egypt, Monday, Aug. 19, 2013. Islamic militants on Monday ambushed two mini-buses carrying off-duty policemen in the northern region of Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, killing more than two dozen of them execution-style in a brazen daylight attack that deepens the turmoil roiling the country and underscores the volatility of the strategic region. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

  • Egyptian military and policemen carry coffins covered with national flags of bodies of off-duty policemen who were killed near the border town of Rafah, North Sinai, upon their arrival at Almaza military airport, Cairo, Egypt, Monday, Aug. 19, 2013. Islamic militants on Monday ambushed two mini-buses carrying off-duty policemen in the northern region of Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, killing more than two dozen of them execution-style in a brazen daylight attack that deepens the turmoil roiling the country and underscores the volatility of the strategic region. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

    Egyptian military and policemen carry coffins covered with national flags of bodies of off-duty policemen who were killed near the border town of Rafah, North Sinai, upon their arrival at Almaza military airport, Cairo, Egypt, Monday, Aug. 19, 2013. Islamic militants on Monday ambushed two mini-buses carrying off-duty policemen in the northern region of Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, killing more than two dozen of them execution-style in a brazen daylight attack that deepens the turmoil roiling the country and underscores the volatility of the strategic region. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

  • In this Sunday, Aug. 18, 2013 photo  a convoy of Egyptian police vehicles patrols the southern city of Assiut, Egypt. In the five days since security forces cleared two sit-in camps by supporters of Egypt's ousted president, Islamists have attacked security forces and dozens of Coptic churches along with homes and businesses owned by the Christian minority. (AP Photo/Roger Anis, El Shorouk Newspaper) EGYPT OUT

    In this Sunday, Aug. 18, 2013 photo a convoy of Egyptian police vehicles patrols the southern city of Assiut, Egypt. In the five days since security forces cleared two sit-in camps by supporters of Egypt's ousted president, Islamists have attacked security forces and dozens of Coptic churches along with homes and businesses owned by the Christian minority. (AP Photo/Roger Anis, El Shorouk Newspaper) EGYPT OUT

  • An Egyptian woman mourns over the shrouded body of a loved one at the Zenhoum morgue in central Cairo, Egypt, Monday, Aug. 19, 2013. Egypt's army leader Gen. Abdel-Fatah el-Sissi vowed Sunday that the military would not tolerate further violence after days of nationwide clashes left nearly 900 people dead including dozens who were killed Sunday when Egyptian police fired tear gas in an attempt to free a guard from rioting detainees. (AP Photo/Mohammed Assad)

    An Egyptian woman mourns over the shrouded body of a loved one at the Zenhoum morgue in central Cairo, Egypt, Monday, Aug. 19, 2013. Egypt's army leader Gen. Abdel-Fatah el-Sissi vowed Sunday that the military would not tolerate further violence after days of nationwide clashes left nearly 900 people dead including dozens who were killed Sunday when Egyptian police fired tear gas in an attempt to free a guard from rioting detainees. (AP Photo/Mohammed Assad)

  • In this image obtained from an Egyptian emergency service worker which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, bodies of off-duty policemen who were killed near the border town of Rafah, North Sinai, Egypt, lie on the ground Monday, Aug. 19, 2013. Islamic militants on Monday ambushed two mini-buses carrying off-duty policemen in the northern region of Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, killing more than two dozen of them execution-style in a brazen daylight attack that deepens the turmoil roiling the country and underscores the volatility of the strategic region. (AP Photo)
  • FILE -- In this Saturday, April 13, 2013 file photo, former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak waves to his supporters from behind bars as he attends a hearing in his retrial on appeal in Cairo, Egypt. Egyptian judiciary officials say former President Hosni Mubarak could be freed from custody this week. They say a court on Monday, Aug. 19, 2013 ordered his release in a corruption case that alleged he and his two sons embezzled funds for presidential palaces. (AP Photo, File)
  • In this Sunday, Aug. 18, 2013 photo, an Egyptian armored vehicle and army soldiers stand guard outside the main Christian Orthodox Cathedral in the southern city of Assiut, Egypt. In the five days since security forces cleared two sit-in camps by supporters of Egypt's ousted president, Islamists have attacked dozens of Coptic churches along with homes and businesses owned by the Christian minority. The campaign of intimidation appears to be a warning to Christians outside Cairo to stand down from political activism. (AP Photo/Roger Anis, El Shorouk Newspaper) EGYPT OUT
  • Supporters of Egypt's ousted President Mohammed Morsi, pictured, raise their hands and four fingers, a sign that protesters say symbolizes the Rabaah al-Adawiya mosque in Cairo that was cleared last week by Egyptian security forces, during a march in the Maadi district in Cairo, Egypt, Monday, Aug. 19, 2013. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)
  • Supporters of Egypt's ousted President Mohammed Morsi, pictured, hold up four fingers, a sign that protesters say symbolizes the Rabaah al-Adawiya mosque in Cairo that was cleared last week by Egyptian security forces, as they march in Maadi, Cairo, Egypt, Monday, Aug. 19, 2013. Arabic on posters reads, "Yes to legitimacy, no to the coup." (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)
  • FILE - In this Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2011 file photo, the Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak sits during his meeting with Emirates foreign minister, not pictured, at the Presidential palace in Cairo, Egypt. Egyptian judiciary officials say former President Hosni Mubarak could be freed from custody this week. They say a court on Monday, Aug. 19, 2013 ordered his release in a corruption case that alleged he and his two sons embezzled funds for presidential palaces. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil, File)
  • Egyptian military and policemen carry coffins, covered with national flags, containing the bodies of off-duty policemen who were killed near the border town of Rafah, North Sinai, upon their arrival at Almaza military airport, Cairo, Egypt, Monday, Aug. 19, 2013. Islamic militants on Monday ambushed two mini-buses carrying off-duty policemen in the northern region of Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, killing more than two dozen of them execution-style in a brazen daylight attack that deepens the turmoil roiling the country and underscores the volatility of the strategic region. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
  • Coffins covered with national flags of bodies of off-duty policemen who were killed near the border town of Rafah, North Sinai, on the ground upon their arrival at Almaza military airport, Cairo, Egypt, Monday, Aug. 19, 2013. Islamic militants on Monday ambushed two mini-buses carrying off-duty policemen in the northern region of Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, killing more than two dozen of them execution-style in a brazen daylight attack that deepens the turmoil roiling the country and underscores the volatility of the strategic region. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
  • Egyptian military and policemen carry coffins covered with national flags of bodies of off-duty policemen who were killed near the border town of Rafah, North Sinai, upon their arrival at Almaza military airport, Cairo, Egypt, Monday, Aug. 19, 2013. Islamic militants on Monday ambushed two mini-buses carrying off-duty policemen in the northern region of Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, killing more than two dozen of them execution-style in a brazen daylight attack that deepens the turmoil roiling the country and underscores the volatility of the strategic region. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
  • Egyptian military and policemen carry coffins covered with national flags of bodies of off-duty policemen who were killed near the border town of Rafah, North Sinai, upon their arrival at Almaza military airport, Cairo, Egypt, Monday, Aug. 19, 2013. Islamic militants on Monday ambushed two mini-buses carrying off-duty policemen in the northern region of Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, killing more than two dozen of them execution-style in a brazen daylight attack that deepens the turmoil roiling the country and underscores the volatility of the strategic region. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
  • In this Sunday, Aug. 18, 2013 photo  a convoy of Egyptian police vehicles patrols the southern city of Assiut, Egypt. In the five days since security forces cleared two sit-in camps by supporters of Egypt's ousted president, Islamists have attacked security forces and dozens of Coptic churches along with homes and businesses owned by the Christian minority. (AP Photo/Roger Anis, El Shorouk Newspaper) EGYPT OUT
  • An Egyptian woman mourns over the shrouded body of a loved one at the Zenhoum morgue in central Cairo, Egypt, Monday, Aug. 19, 2013. Egypt's army leader Gen. Abdel-Fatah el-Sissi vowed Sunday that the military would not tolerate further violence after days of nationwide clashes left nearly 900 people dead including dozens who were killed Sunday when Egyptian police fired tear gas in an attempt to free a guard from rioting detainees. (AP Photo/Mohammed Assad)

Cairo — A court ruling Monday raised the possibility of jailed ex-president Hosni Mubarak walking free soon, a move that would fuel the unrest roiling the country after the autocratic leader’s successor was removed in a military coup.

Underscoring the growing anger over Mohammed Morsi’s ouster, suspected Islamic militants ambushed two minibuses carrying off-duty policemen in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, forcing the men to lie on the sand and shooting 25 of them dead.

“They were marked in advance by the attackers,” said Ashraf Abdullah, who heads the police branch the victims belonged to. He said the assailants checked the IDs of the men, who were not in uniform, to ensure they were policemen before opening fire.

The brazen daylight attack raised fears that the strategic desert region bordering Israel and the Gaza Strip could be plunged into a full-fledged insurgency.

In a separate development early this morning, police detained the supreme leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist group from which Morsi hails, according to security officials and state television. They said Mohammed Badie was captured in an apartment in the eastern Cairo district of Nasr City. That’s where Morsi’s supporters held a six-week sit-in protest that was cleared by security forces last Wednesday.

The private ONTV network showed footage of a man the network said was Badie after his arrest. In the footage, a somber looking Badie in an off-white Arab robe, or galabiyah, sits motionless on a sofa as a man in civilian clothes and carrying an assault rifle stands nearby.

Badie and his powerful deputy Khairat el-Shater, who is in custody, go on trial later this month for their alleged role in the killing of eight protesters outside the Brotherhood’s Cairo headquarters in June. His arrest is a serious blow to the group at a time when authorities are cracking down on its leaders and mid-ranking officials, detaining scores of them across the country.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

The 25 slain police officers were given a funeral with full military honors presided over by Interior Minister Mohammed Ibrahim, who is in charge of the police, and the army’s chief of staff, Gen. Sedki Sobhi.

In a show of solidarity, the men’s coffins, draped in red, white and black Egyptian flags, were jointly carried by army soldiers and policemen, and interim President Adly Mansour declared a nationwide state of mourning to mark their deaths.

Despite the violence, Cairo, a bustling metropolis of some 18 million people, began to regain a sense of normalcy although the capital remained under a state of emergency and a dusk-to-dawn curfew.

Daytime traffic was back to its normal congested levels and stores were open. Government employees returned to work and the Central Bank ordered banks, which were operating on a reduced 9 a.m.-noon schedule, to remain open for an additional hour today. A handful of protests erupted in various parts of the city, but they were small and led to no violence.

Mubarak, 85, has been in detention since April 2011, two months after he was ousted in a revolution against his rule.

He was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison last year for failing to stop the killing of some 900 protesters in the 18-day uprising. His sentence was overturned on appeal and he is now being retried, along with his security chief and six top police commanders.

Two judicial officials said Mubarak could walk free this week or next after a criminal court on Monday ordered his release in a corruption case in which he and his two sons were accused of embezzling funds for the maintenance of presidential palaces. His sons were ordered kept in custody.

Monday’s ruling, along with the fact that Mubarak had previously been ordered released in the killings of the protesters opened the possibility of freedom for the former president, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

There will no longer be any grounds to hold him if a court accepts a petition by his lawyer requesting his release in a third case later this week or next.

Many analysts, however, expressed skepticism, saying the political cost of freeing the former leader, who was widely hated for widespread abuses and repression during his 29 years in power, could keep him in jail.

Leading rights campaigner Nasser Amin and rights lawyer Hoda Nasrallah said they did not expect Mubarak to be released, citing the country’s delicate political and security situation as well as past incidents when authorities brought up new allegations to prevent his release.

Amin complained that Egypt’s penal law, which dates to the 1930s, has no adequate provisions to allow the conviction of perpetrators of crimes like ordering or failing to prevent the killing of protesters. Already, the overwhelming majority of court cases brought against policemen charged with killing protesters have ended in acquittals or suspended sentences.

“His release or detention will be a decision that weighs political and security conditions in the country,” said Nasrallah.

Freeing Mubarak during one of the worst bouts of turmoil since his ouster would be a huge risk for the military-backed government. It could lend credibility to allegations that the mass protests that preceded the July 3 coup that toppled Egypt’s first democratically elected leader were the work of Mubarak-era figures searching for a way to reinstate the former regime.

Last week, the military raided two protest camps of Morsi’s supporters in Cairo, killing hundreds of people and triggering a wave of violence that has left at least 1,000 people dead.

Human Rights Watch, in a report released Monday, accused Egyptian security forces of using excessive force when they moved to clear the larger of the two camps.

The New York-based group said the assault amounted to the “most serious incident of mass unlawful killings in modern Egyptian history.”