In some breaking news, an Egyptian appeals court has ordered the release from imprisonment of former dictator Hosni Mubarak, which could happen within the next few hours.

Rod Nordland of the New York Times succinctly sums up the political implications:

Mr. Mubarak’s release would inject a volatile new element into the political crisis convulsing Egypt, coming less than two months after the military coup that toppled his successor, the Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed Morsi, the country’s first freely elected president.

The juxtaposition of freedom for Mr. Mubarak while Mr. Morsi remains in custody would dramatically test the level of support for the military-led government among the many anti-Mubarak people who later sided with the decision to depose Mr. Morsi and crack down on the Muslim Brotherhood.

If there were ever a case for bending the law to keep someone in the hoosegow for a while longer, this could be it. Perhaps the old man could be cited for desecrating a public sidewalk when he takes his first steps into freedom.

This is hardly, of course, the only situation where circumstances and the positions of both sides in the Egyptian conflict seem to be conspiring to make a bad situation worse. For one thing, Islamists and the military seem to have decided attacks on Christians are good for everyone involved, per this report from the Times‘ Kareem Fahim:

The call for revenge raced through this village southwest of the capital and echoed from the loudspeakers of mosques last week as the military invaded two protest camps in Cairo, killing hundreds of supporters of the deposed president, Mohamed Morsi.

“El-Sisi is killing our children,” a man screamed, referring to Egypt’s defense minister, Gen. Abdul-Fattah el-Sisi. “Muslims, come out of your homes!”

Hundreds of Islamists poured into the street, torching, looting and smashing the village’s two churches and a nearby monastery, lashing out so ferociously that marble altars were left in broken heaps on the floor.

Over the next few days, a wave of similar attacks on the Coptic Christian minority washed over the country as Islamists set upon homes and churches, shops and schools, youth clubs and at least one orphanage, killing at least three people, according to an Egyptian human rights group. As Christians were scapegoated for supporting the military ouster of Mr. Morsi, the authorities stood by and watched: in Nazla, as in other places, the army and the police made no attempt to intervene. Few Christians in Nazla expected an investigation into the attacks.

The downward spiral continues.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.