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World

Former Egyptian President Mubarak Freed From Detention

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

Now to Egypt where former President Hosni Mubarak is a free man. He had been in detention since 2011 when his three decades as president came to an end. His release comes after he was cleared of charges that he ordered protesters to be killed during the revolution. NPR's Jane Arraf has more from Cairo.

JANE ARRAF, BYLINE: The 88-year-old former president returned to his home in the upscale Heliopolis district of Cairo for the first time in six years after being freed from the military hospital where he had been held. The man known as a modern pharaoh had ruled Egypt for 30 years, but he was deeply unpopular and forced from power by huge protests in 2011. Those were the heady days of the Arab Spring when protesters, many of them young people, took the risk of taking to the streets to demand dignity, jobs and freedom. They were thrilled to see Mubarak arrested.

Two years later, a military coup brought current president Abdul Fattah al-Sisi to power. Activists say al-Sisi has rolled back almost every human rights gain achieved by the revolution. Khaled Fahmy, an Egyptian professor of modern Middle East history at Harvard University says for many, Mubarak's release takes away even the revolution's initial victory.

KHALED FAHMY: This is the only time in modern Egyptian history in which the Egyptian people managed to depose one of their tyrants and to put him on trial. And the al-Sisi regime is intent on wiping it from popular memory.

ARRAF: Mubarak served three years after being convicted on corruption charges. He was also convicted of ordering security forces to kill hundreds of protesters. But a court overturned that ruling, saying the prosecution hadn't proved he gave the order. An appeals court this month ordered him freed. Fahmy says thousands of Egyptians have been denied the same legal rights.

FAHMY: There are people who have been without trial, and they are lingering in prison.

ARRAF: Mubarak isn't seen as having any political future, and he still faces potential charges on allegations he took gifts from a state-owned newspaper, but he's not expected to be taken back into custody unless he's convicted. Jane Arraf, NPR News, Cairo. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.