CAIRO -- Former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak was released from prison Thursday, boarding a helicopter that flew him to an army hospital where he was expected to stay before his transfer to house arrest.
A small crowd of supporters cheered outside Tora prison as the copter carrying the frail, 85-year-old toppled autocrat took off into a clear sky. He was flown a few miles to a military hospital along the Nile in southern Cairo, arriving on a gurney. Traffic on the corniche was stopped as Mubarak was wheeled from the landing pad and through the hospital’s gates.
Although disdain over Mubarak’s 30-year rule sparked a 2011 uprising that brought him down, much of the nation was indifferent to his release from prison. The new military-backed government is in the midst of a crackdown against the Muslim Brotherhood that has killed more than 900 people, mostly backers of deposed Islamist president Mohamed Morsi.
A court ruled Wednesday that Mubarak be freed after judicial time limits to hold him on financial-misconduct and other crimes had expired. He is being retried on murder-related charges over the deaths of more than 800 protesters during the uprising.
The military, which controls the country under emergency law, ordered that he be placed under house arrest until his legal fate is decided.
Critics and supporters of Mubarak had expected his release. However, most leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood, which helped overthrow Mubarak, are now under arrest and its members are unable to organize protests.
Liberal activists who helped oust Mubarak see his release as evidence that their ambitions for a new democracy have been hijacked.
“The revolution is dead,” tweeted one man.
But many Egyptians have moved beyond the intrigue of Mubarak's legal drama. Unemployment, economic turmoil and persistent political divisions have been the focus of much attention. In many ways, with legions of police in the streets and dissent quickly muffled, it is as if the 2011 revolution never happened.
Special correspondent Ingy Hassieb contributed to this report.