Egyptian court orders steel tycoon released


Ahmed Maher, in sunglasses, leader of the April 6 youth group that had a leading role in the 2011 uprising against Egypt’s then-President Hosni Mubarak, is shown in November 2013 trying to turn himself in to prosecutors in Cairo. (Ahmed Omar/AP)

An Egyptian court ­ordered the release of one of the 2011 revolution’s most notorious villains Monday, while three of the uprising’s most prominent pro-democracy activists — now prisoners of Egypt’s military-backed government — appeared in a separate court alleging torture.

The two hearings underscored the remarkable reversals that have befallen some of the main players in Egypt’s 18-day revolt, which led to the ouster of autocrat Hosni Mubarak.

But many Egyptians who back the country’s military commander and likely presidential candidate, Abdel Fatah al-Sissi, don’t appear to mind. They say they’re ready to move on.

Ahmed Ezz, a steel magnate and former head of Mubarak’s ruling party, ranked among the top targets of protesters’ anger in 2011. Ezz, many said, had stolen money from the state, presided over corrupt and monopolistic business practices and rigged elections.

He was ultimately convicted on corruption charges.

But former regime figures, including Mubarak, have increasingly seen their convictions overturned since the July military coup that ousted the country’s first democratically elected president.

In December, a court ordered Ezz’s retrial, and on Monday, a judge ordered his release on bail of 100 million Egyptian pounds, or about $14.3 million, heeding the defense team’s argument that Ezz had exceeded the maximum amount of time allowed for precautionary detention.

“Ezz didn’t kill people. He’s corrupt. So if they’re able to make him pay the 100 million, that would be good for the economy,” said Mohamed al-Hasib, a shopkeeper in the capital.

Ezz is one of a handful of Mubarak-era politicians and businessmen who have been allowed to pay fines in exchange for amnesty.

And in an ironic twist of fate, Egypt’s military-backed government has simultaneously cracked down on some of the men and women who led the charge for Mubarak’s ouster.

Ahmed Maher, founder of the 6th of April youth movement, and two other activists, Mohammed Adel and Ahmed Douma, helped draw thousands of Egyptians into the streets in 2011.

The three were sentenced in December to three years in prison on post-coup charges of assaulting security personnel, damaging public property and protesting without a permit.

On Monday, when they appeared in court for the second hearing of their appeal, their attorneys told the judge that the men have been tortured in prison. The judge adjourned the case until April.

Abigail Hauslohner covers D.C. politics -- and the people affected by D.C. politics. She came to the local beat in 2015 after seven years covering war, politics, and corruption across the Middle East and North Africa. Most recently, she served as the Post’s Cairo Bureau Chief.

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