Six years after his overthrow, former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak was freed from detention Friday, dashing the hopes of many who saw Mubarak's downfall as a sign that Arab leaders could be held accountable for corruption and repression.
According to an Egyptian security official, Mubarak left the Armed Forces hospital in Cairo's southern suburb of Maadi earlier in the morning.
A top appeals court cleared Mubarak earlier this month on charges of killing protesters in the 2011 uprising that ended his 30 year rule.
Mubarak first went into internal exile in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, where he spent more and more time during his last years in power. He's ferried by helicopter from the police academy where the trial was held to Cairo's Torah Prison where his sons and members of his regime have been either serving prison sentences or being held pending trials over a variety of corruption charges.
He was sentenced to life in 2012 in the case, but an appeal court ordered a retrial which dismissed the charges two years later.
Even the loyalists who frequently cheered Mubarak from the hospital gates through the years were not told beforehand of his pending release, although they were no less jubilant afterward.
His lawyer Farid al-Deeb was quoted as saying that the former Egyptian dictator was heading to his home in Heliopolis.
Hundreds of protesters were killed in clashes with police and Mubarak supporters during the 18-day uprising in 2011, part of the Arab Spring protests that swept the region.
He beat other cases too, but was sentenced to three years for corruption, which took into account time served. Mubarak celebrated his release by having breakfast with his wife, Suzanne, and sons, Alaa and Gamal. The liberal and leftist opposition, at the forefront of the 2011 protests in Cairo's Tahrir Square, is under pressure and in disarray. A final ruling by the Court of Cassation on March 2 declared him innocent. But critics say they have limited freedoms even more than Mubarak.
Mubarak is not yet completely in the clear: Investigations are set to reopen into whether he illegally received gifts from the state-owned Al-Ahram media organization during his reign.
"Now there are no red lines, no ceiling", said Helmi, who represented dozens of youths currently on trial over allegations of belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood.