Middle East

Egypt: Hosni Mubarak fraud conviction overturned

Gamal Mubarak, Hosni Mubarak and Alaa Mubarak in court (14 September 2013) Image copyright AP
Image caption In November, a court cleared Hosni Mubarak of directing the killing of protesters during the 2011 uprising

A court in Egypt has overturned the convictions for embezzlement of former President Hosni Mubarak and his two sons and ordered a retrial.

Mr Mubarak was jailed for three years in May after being found guilty of fraudulently billing the government for $14m (£9.3m) of personal expenses.

But the Court of Cassation found legal procedures were not followed properly.

It was the last remaining case keeping Mr Mubarak behind bars. The 86-year-old has been in detention since April 2011.

Mr Mubarak's lawyer told the BBC he hoped his client would soon be released from Cairo military hospital, where is being held.

Charges of conspiring in the killing of hundreds of protesters during the uprising that ended his rule in 2011 were dropped in November.

The former president and his sons - Alaa, 53, and Gamal, 51 - were also cleared of two separate corruption charges.

At the scene: Orla Guerin, BBC News, Cairo

Egypt's former president can now celebrate another legal victory.

After years of court cases, his last conviction has been overturned - though he faces a retrial. A handful of Mubarak loyalists cheered and shouted in court when his three-year sentence was quashed.

Even before today's verdict, his lawyers said he was entitled to be freed because he had already spent three years in prison, when pre-trial detention is included.

A source in the Egyptian prison service told the BBC the former president would be released, once they had calculated the days already served.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Judicial sources say Mubarak could walk free as no convictions remain against him

Legally he may be entitled to his freedom, but political considerations are likely to play a role.

If he reappears in public - just four years after the revolution which unseated him - it will deepen the divisions here, and could provoke fresh unrest on the streets.

That's something the current Egyptian leadership may prefer to avoid.

There's speculation that the former leader may opt to remain in the military hospital overlooking the Nile, where he has been serving his sentence. One newspaper report suggested his family was concerned about ensuring his safety outside the hospital.

The Court of Cassation, Egypt's top appeals court, announced that it had overturned the three men's convictions for embezzlement and ordered a retrial at a brief session on Tuesday morning.

At the original trial, prosecutors alleged that Mr Mubarak and his sons had billed the government for more than 100,000 Egyptian pounds of personal expenses for several private homes and a public palace that was fraudulently transferred to their ownership.

Other expenses included renovating a villa, and building a new palace wing to accommodate one of Mr Mubarak's granddaughters and a mausoleum for a grandson who died, they said.

Evidence submitted by the prosecutors included more than a thousand original and forged receipts.

When a new court is assigned for the retrial, the judges could order Mr Mubarak to be freed because no convictions against him remain.

Egyptian media report that he had been expected to be released from the military hospital at Maadi on 17 January even if the embezzlement conviction had been upheld because of the time he has spent in custody.