By MATT BRADLEY And TAMER EL-GHOBASHY CONNECT
CAIRO—An Egyptian court Wednesday ordered the release of former President Hosni Mubarak, ushering in yet another potential flash point of anger in a country already reeling from unprecedented political violence.
A judge in Cairo said there were no legal grounds to hold the 85-year-old former autocrat under allegations of corruption related to gifts he had received from a state publishing house while in office.
Under Egyptian law, prosecutors have 48 hours to challenge the judge’s decision. It was unclear Wednesday afternoon whether prosecutors would file a challenge.
The judge’s decision comes as opponents of Egypt’s new interim government continue their weekslong protests against the military’s ouster of Mohammed Morsi , Mr. Mubarak’s successor and Egypt’s first freely elected president.
The decision introduces yet another point of contention to Egypt’s volatile political mix. More than 1,000 people have died in internecine political violence over the past six weeks—the deadliest episode of political change in Egypt’s modern history.
Mr. Mubarak’s release has the potential to inflame an already organized and disgruntled protest movement.
For many Egyptians, Mr. Mubarak’s release will act as a symbol of a resurgent old order.
The court’s decision looks set to realize a full reversal of Egypt’s tumultuous revolution 2½ years after it began. Mr. Morsi, an Islamist and stalwart opponent of Mr. Mubarak, is currently in jail.
Mr. Mubarak’s draconian emergency law that Mr. Morsi’s supporters rolled back was renewed last week and the country’s military is once again managing the affairs of state from behind the scenes.
As Mr. Mubarak prepares to leave prison, Egypt’s interim government is continuing to round up leaders in the Muslim Brotherhood that Mr. Mubarak long suppressed. Just Tuesday, police detained the once-powerful organization’s leader, Mohammed Badie .
Mr. Mubarak still faces a retrial on capital charges of murdering protesters during the early 2011 uprising that ousted him. But the court determined on Wednesday that Mr. Mubarak was eligible for release because his custody period exceeds the allowable period under Egyptian law.
—Leila Elmergawi contributed to this article.