Egypt's army says has no plans to pardon Mubarak

CAIRO Wed May 18, 2011 1:39pm EDT

Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak attends a meeting with United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahayan at the presidential palace in Cairo February 8, 2011. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak attends a meeting with United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahayan at the presidential palace in Cairo February 8, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

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CAIRO (Reuters) - Egypt's ruling military council on Wednesday dismissed speculation it would pardon former President Hosni Mubarak, who is under investigation for graft and abuse of power, and said it does not interfere in judicial affairs. Mubarak, 83, is detained in a hospital in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh after officials said he had heart problems. His wife, Suzanne, who also fell ill when ordered detained, was freed on Tuesday after giving up assets but faces a graft probe.

The timing of the illnesses of Mubarak and his wife meant neither joined other officials in jail and has fueled talk they were getting special treatment by the army.

"The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces affirms that there is absolutely no truth in what was published by the media about the council moving to pardon the former president Hosni Mubarak and his family," it said in a communique on its Facebook page.

The council "does not intervene in any way in legal matters and particularly in holding to account symbols of the previous regime," it said, adding that legal steps were for the judiciary to handle and such "rumors" were aimed at dividing the nation.

As well as being the commander of the armed forces in his capacity as president, Mubarak was a decorated officer who led the air force during the 1973 war with Israel.

Some analysts say members of the military council, led by Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi who served as Mubarak's defense minister for two decades, have been reluctant to humiliate their former leader by putting him behind bars.

But the council has been under public pressure to hold Mubarak and others to account, following a series of mass demonstrations after his ouster on February 11.

Assem el-Gohari, the head of the Illicit Gains Authority set up to investigate official graft under Mubarak, defended the decision to release the former first lady and said she could be detained again if investigators find new evidence of wrongdoing.

He said a decision to detain or release a suspect during an investigation does not prove the person is guilty or innocent.

"This procedure is justice at its highest because it shows that every person can get his rights," Gohari told reporters in Cairo. "What should normally happen is the person gets jailed after he is convicted."

The general prosecutor said in a statement that a medical team, including two army doctors, would reassess Hosni Mubarak's health to see if he could be moved to a prison hospital.

The prosecutor said that as well as assessing Mubarak's health, the medical team would check whether the hospital at Torah prison on the outskirts of Cairo was fit to treat Mubarak.

Mubarak is being probed for abuse of power, embezzlement and for his role in the deaths of protesters during the 18 days of unrest that led to his overthrow. His wife is accused of using her husband's influence for unlawful personal gain.

Both deny the charges.

Due to sudden illnesses, neither spent time in prison for questioning despite being ordered detained. Their two sons, Gamal and Alaa, were moved to jail with other top officials and are being investigated over corruption and other charges.

Both sons and other officials such as the former prime minister, other cabinet members and senior party officials are being held at Torah prison for questioning.

(Editing by Philippa Fletcher)

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