ROBIN YOUNG, HOST:

From NPR and WBUR Boston, I'm Robin Young.

JEREMY HOBSON, HOST:

I'm Jeremy Hobson. It's HERE AND NOW. Coming up, a wide-ranging conversation with the leader of one of the largest religious organizations in the country.

YOUNG: But first to Egypt and what's being called the latest irony in that country. Today a judge ruled that former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak can be freed from prison as early as tomorrow. The 85-year-old is awaiting a retrial. He was convicted of failing to prevent the killing of protestors during the 2011 uprising. These are the same protestors who later came out to protest Mubarak's democratically elected Islamist successor, Mohamed Morsi, who was then ousted by the military.

Khaled Ezz El-Arab is a BBC correspondent in Cairo. Khaled, how are Egyptians reacting to this news that the man at the beginning of this chain of events may soon be released from prison?

KHALED EZZ EL-ARAB: Well, there haven't been any reactions so far on the street, for example, or even from political groups making official statements. However, just judging by the vibes we're getting on social media, Facebook and Twitter and stuff like that, there is a sense of shock, perhaps, among many.

The latest development, the decision to release Mubarak, is being used of course by those who believe that the military's ousting of former President Mohamed Morsi last month was a way to get back to the pre-revolutionary order. So it gives more ammunition to those claiming that what happened last month was a coup d'etat aimed at restoring the Mubarak regime once again.

YOUNG: Well, we hear some Egyptians saying that they feel that the tactics the military is using will bring them back to the time of Mubarak, for instance declaring a state of emergency. You and others point out under Mubarak that state of emergency lasted for 30 years. Others have been, as we know, backing the military in their taking on the Muslim Brotherhood.

But something else changed radically yesterday when the Brotherhood's leader, Mohammed Badie, was detained. This is something that wasn't even done under Mubarak, who also repressed the Brotherhood. So what has been the reaction to that?

EL-ARAB: It wasn't unexpected, to be honest. The signs have been there for a long time that the confrontation is limitless, almost, and that the authorities will go as far as they can in confronting the Muslim Brotherhood. So there hasn't been a lot of reaction, per se, some demonstrations by supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, but they've been demonstrating in any case for the past few days. And it seems that their ability to stage large protests has been curtailed by the successive security operations against their leaders.

YOUNG: So you have the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood arrested and Mubarak potentially released as soon as tomorrow. He's being released because he served the maximum time for his pre-trial detention. There may be, you know, more jail time down the road. But how are Egyptians seeing that, one man out, one man in?

EL-ARAB: Yes, well, a lot of people are pointing out that Mubarak is out, the Muslim Brotherhood leaders are in prison. Mubarak will still face trial. There are things that have changed since 2011 like people's ability to go out on the street and express themselves. And, I mean, it might not be that easy. Even if the authorities would like to roll back everything and just rewind the past two and a half years, it might not be that easy.

YOUNG: Khaled Ezz El-Arab, BBC correspondent in Cairo, thank you so much.

EL-ARAB: Thank you.

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