A court convened in a Cairo jail on Wednesday to consider a petition for the release of Hosni Mubarak, the deposed leader of a nation gripped by turmoil, seven weeks after the army toppled his elected successor Mohamed Mursi.
At least 900 people, including 100 soldiers and police, have been killed in a crackdown on Mursi's Muslim Brotherhood in the past week, the bloodiest civil unrest in Egypt's modern history.
The United States and the European Union are both reviewing aid to Egypt in light of the bloodshed, but Saudi Arabia, a foe of the Brotherhood, has promised to make up any shortfall.
Security sources said the court had met at Tora prison, where Mubarak is being held, to review a legal petition demanding freedom for the man who ruled for 30 years until he was overthrown as uprisings swept the Arab world in 2011.
Mubarak is still being retried on charges of complicity in the killing of protesters during the revolt against him, but he has already served the maximum pre-trial detention in that case.
The court could remove the last legal ground for his imprisonment in connection with a corruption case, following a similar decision in another corruption case on Monday.
Although at 85 Mubarak probably has no political future, his release would be seen by many in the Arab world as rehabilitation of an old order of six decades of rule by military men - and even a reversal of the 2011 pro-democracy uprising that brought him down.
The generals ousted Mursi, Egypt's first freely elected leader, on July 3, saying they were responding to the will of the people following vast demonstrations demanding his removal.
They have installed an interim administration to oversee a roadmap they say will lead Egypt back to democracy. Reuters