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Egyptian court drops one charge against Mubarak

Egypt's ex-president Hosni Mubarak has been acquitted of the third of four charges brought against him after his overthrow in 2011. The court could grant him a conditional release as early as this week, his lawyer says.

A Cairo court granted former President Mubarak conditional release in a corruption case on Monday, placing him one step closer to leaving prison. However, the long-time Egyptian leader must remain in custody until the court rules on his fourth charge, according to judicial sources.

Mubarak, 85, awaits the ruling in a final corruption case based on allegations of illegally accepting gifts during his time as president. His lawyer, Farid al-Dib, reportedly expects the court to drop the charge, as Mubarak has already repaid the value of the gift.

"I expect a decision to be reached within 24 hours," al-Dib said, according to news agency DPA.

A popular uprising toppled Mubarak's regime in early 2011, bringing an end to his 30-year-rule. Shortly thereafter, the ex-president was arrested and has remained in detention in Torah prison.

Several months after Mubarak relinquished his office, an Egyptian court sentenced Mubarak and his former interior minister, Habib Adly, to life imprisonment for complicity in the deaths of some of the protesters killed during the Arab Spring in Egypt. He appealed the conviction and now awaits a retrial.

'Bigger than a legal problem'

The news of Mubarak's possible release came amid widespread unrest and political instability in Egypt.

A lawyer representing some of the plaintiffs in the Mubarak case told Reuters a reappearance of the controversial figure in the public sphere would further undermine the interim government.

"This is bigger than a legal problem. This is a political problem because Mubarak's exit at this moment would tip the situation in favor of the Brotherhood. This is not a desirable outcome and one the current regime would not allow," attorney Mohammed Rashwan said on Monday following the court's dismissal of the third charge against the ex-president.

Early last month, the Egyptian military removed democratically elected President Mohammed Morsi from power, following widespread protests against his administration, which was celebrating one year in office. The interim government put into place by the country's top army chief, General Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, has said it will hold democratic elections to install a new government

Supporters of President Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood - the Islamist party which backed him during his rise to power in 2012 - have rejected the transitional government's claims and have held numerous demonstrations calling for Morsi's immediate reinstatement since early July.

The violent removal of pro-Morsi sit-ins in Cairo last week culminated in repeated deadly clashes between security forces and civilians through the end of the weekend, claiming over 800 lives.

"If Mubarak comes out at this time, the Brotherhood will exploit it to the utmost extent and claim that what is happening in Egypt is a return to the former regime," Rashwan added.

kms/ipj (AP, AFP, Reuters)