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Mubarak flown to military hospital

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By McClatchy Newspapers
Thursday, Aug. 22, 2013, 7:24 p.m.

CAIRO — A medical helicopter flew former military strongman Hosni Mubarak away from prison on Thursday, a day after a court ordered him released, as two of the rival forces driving Egypt's political crisis crossed paths in the street under the glares of gun-toting soldiers.

Mubarak was taken to a nearby military hospital — where Egypt's prime minster ordered him held under house arrest — seven weeks and one day after the army ousted his successor, Mohamed Morsy, the Muslim Brotherhood leader who won Egypt's first democratic presidential election.

Mubarak's release was technically required by law. But it added to the political tensions, as it was widely seen as the latest sign that Egypt is returning to military rule more than two years after the Arab Spring uprising that forced Mubarak from power, paving the way for Morsy's election.

The 85-year-old Mubarak — clad in a white shirt, khaki pants, black socks and white loafers — was shown in a photograph released by the army being lifted into a military helicopter as he lay on a gurney, adding to rumors that he has been suffering ill health. According to the state news agency, Mubarak asked to be transferred to the military facility for his house arrest.

Over and over, television news stations replayed video of the helicopter, which was labeled “Flying Hospital,” as it landed at the Maadi Military Hospital and two men dressed in white wheeled the gurney toward the back of the aircraft.

As Mubarak was carried out, an ambulance pulled up, blocking the camera's view of him. Black-suited men brandished handguns alongside soldiers armed with rifles until the ambulance pulled away with the former leader.

For many, Mubarak's fate has reflected the nation's evolution. Within months of his ouster, he stood trial for the deaths of more than 700 protesters during the 2011 uprising. Images of Mubarak in a court cage, lying on a hospital gurney and listening to a judge read off the alleged crimes he committed suggested an Egypt transforming from military rule to a democracy.

Several armored vehicles and armed troops stood outside the entrance of Tora Prison, keeping watch over dozens of Mubarak supporters celebrating his transfer. They cheered and waved portraits of the onetime military dictator they associate with decades of iron fist-imposed stability. One man carried a poster of Army Gen. Abdel-Fatah al-Sisi, the minister of defense who announced Morsi's ouster and has emerged as Egypt's de facto ruler.

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