Egypt's ousted President Mubarak sits inside a dock at the police academy on the outskirts of Cairo

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Egyptian judicial officials have ordered former President Hosni Mubarak freed from jail, a stunning turnaround for the 85-year-old strongman who ruled the nation for three decades before being ousted in a popular revolution, and a move that could plunge the unraveling North African nation into further violence.

The announcement, which comes as Egypt is roiling with new protests following the July 3 ouster of Mubarak’s successor, Mohammad Morsi, stoked fears of even more violent reprisals from the Muslim Brotherhood, whose supporters have clashed with security forces and torched dozens of Coptic churches. As many as 1,000 Egyptians, including 70 soldiers and police officers,have been killed in the last week in fighting between the Muslim Brotherhood and the nation’s more secular Muslims and Christians. On Sunday, some 25 Egyptian police were ambushed and executed in the lawless Sinai Peninsula, where the Muslim Brotherhood appears to have aligned with Al Qaeda fighters.

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