Mubarak's wife, aide released but still face probes

CAIRO Wed May 18, 2011 3:07am IST

File photo of Egypt's former first lady, Suzanne Mubarak, attending the Stop Human Trafficking Now forum in Luxor, southern Egypt December 11, 2010. REUTERS/ Goran Tomasevic/Files

File photo of Egypt's former first lady, Suzanne Mubarak, attending the Stop Human Trafficking Now forum in Luxor, southern Egypt December 11, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/ Goran Tomasevic/Files

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CAIRO (Reuters) - Ousted President Hosni Mubarak's wife was released from detention on Tuesday after giving up assets but is still being investigated, said an official leading a probe into whether she amassed wealth illegally.

Suzanne Mubarak, who denies charges that she abused her husband's influence for unlawful personal gain, was admitted to hospital on Friday after suffering symptoms of a heart attack. She has been detained in the same hospital as her husband.

In a separate ruling, an appeals court also released Mubarak's chief of staff, Zakaria Azmi, on bail of 200,000 pounds ($33,640) on Tuesday after nearly six weeks in detention.

Azmi, one of Mubarak's closest aides, was detained for 15 days on April 7 as part of an investigation into allegations of illegal gains. He has been remanded twice since, each time for 15 days, court officials said. He has denied any wrongdoing.

The decision came after Azmi's lawyer filed an appeal for his client's release. Under Egyptian law, suspects can be held for up to 45 days and then must be freed or brought to trial.

The country's anti-graft agency said it has informed the prosecutor it will appeal the ruling at the criminal court.

Mubarak, 83, is also being investigated for abuse of power, embezzlement and responsibility for the deaths of protesters during the 18 days of unrest that led to his overthrow on Feb. 11. He is still in detention.

"Suzanne Mubarak was released pending investigations after she gave up her assets of 24 million Egyptian pounds ($4 million) to the state," Assem el-Gohari, the head of the illicit gains authority, told state radio.

A state television channel and a local newspaper quoted media sources as saying Hosni Mubarak would apologise to Egyptians and would also return assets to the nation. But a military source told Reuters the report on Hosni was not true.

HEART PROBLEMS

The report fuelled speculation among Egyptians about the fate of the couple, who were both reported to have suffered heart problems just as they were about to be transferred to jail for questioning.

Instead, both were held under guard in hospital in Sharm el-Sheikh, the Red Sea resort where they had been living in a villa after Mubarak was pushed out of office.

"Both Mr and Mrs Mubarak had heart problems as soon as they were ordered to be detained, well fool me once but don't fool me twice," said Mohamed Yassin, 26, a financial adviser.

The former president was hospitalised while in power, most recently for gallbladder surgery in March 2010.

A judicial source had said earlier that Suzanne Mubarak would be released after posting bail, but the graft body said there was no bail.

Some Egyptians said they were frustrated that the president's wife had been freed from detention, even if the investigation was still going on.

"She should be detained. I know Egyptians have kind hearts ... but the state and the people have rights and it is an insult to the state if someone steals its money and gets released," said Mansour Khalil, a textile factory owner in his 50s.

But others said that, given her age and previous position, it was time to let her go.

"At the age of Suzanne Mubarak, it is humiliating for her to be put in jail, and now after she agreed to give back her money and assets then I think it is okay if she gets released," said Younis Abdellah, a general manager at a state firm.

(Writing by Edmund Blair and Sami Aboudi)

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