Egypt's Mubarak detained over graft, protest probe

Reuters News
Posted: Apr 13, 2011 3:59 AM

By Tom Pfeiffer and Sarah Mikhail

CAIRO (Reuters) - Hosni Mubarak was ordered detained for 15 days on Wednesday, a move that may help quell protests and quash suspicions that Egypt's ruling army generals had been shielding their former commander from investigation.

Mubarak, toppled on February 11 after mass demonstrations against his 30-year rule, was admitted to hospital on Tuesday suffering what state media called a "heart crisis." There were conflicting reports about the seriousness of his illness.

The public prosecutor had summoned Mubarak for questioning on Sunday over the killing of protesters and embezzling of public funds. His two sons, Alaa and Gamal, were also summoned for questioning over graft and ordered detained, state TV said.

"Former President Hosni Mubarak was detained for 15 days for investigation," state television reported in a brief headline.

In his first public comment since stepping down, broadcast on Al Arabiya on Sunday, Mubarak denied wrongdoing.

A security source said that Mubarak was likely to remain for security reasons in detention in Sharm el-Sheikh, the Red Sea resort where he has been in internal exile since leaving office.

An airport source in Sharm el-Sheikh said Mubarak's sons had left the town for a prison in Cairo. They join a list of ex-ministers and officials under investigation and held in jail.

Gamal, 47, Mubarak's younger son, held a top post in the ruling party. Many Egyptians believed he was being groomed for top office, although both father and son denied any such plan.

"This is a serious step forward in holding the president accountable and ends any suspicion that the state and the military were in cahoots with Mubarak," said Hassan Nafaa, a political scientist and activist for reform.

"Most of the people had been suspicious of the army," he said.

The army council, which has ruled since Mubarak quit, had faced increasingly loud calls for Mubarak to be held to account. Hundreds of thousands of Egyptians criticized the army in a protest on Friday over the failure to prosecute him swiftly.

Soldiers on Tuesday broke up a five-day sit-in at Tahrir Square, which became the epicenter of Egypt's uprising in January. Protesters had vowed to keep up the pressure.


There were conflicting reports about Mubarak's condition. A state television report said he was in intensive care after a "heart crisis" during questioning. Al Arabiya said he was fit enough to be questioned in hospital in Sharm el-Sheikh.

The timing of his health setback had prompted skepticism among some hard-core protesters who have complained about the failure of the military to pursue Mubarak and his allies more swiftly and argue that they are protecting one of their own.

The army had praised and thanked Mubarak when he left office, but protesters criticized his rule by emergency law and say he encouraged a rich and poor divide.

"We want our money. We want the thief to be tried," chanted dozens of people gathered near the hospital in the glitzy resort where Mubarak spent more and more time before leaving office.

Mubarak has suffered from health problems in recent years and went to Germany for gall bladder surgery in March 2010. There were frequent rumors about his health as he aged, particularly after his last bout of surgery.

Mubarak had vowed to die in Egypt when he addressed the country's 80 million people shortly before he stepped down.

After Friday's demonstration, soldiers and police used tasers and batons to try to drive out the protesters after nightfall. In clashes, medical sources said 13 men were wounded by gunfire and two died. The army denied using live ammunition.

Angry protesters demanded the army hand power to civilians, but soldiers moved in on Tuesday to end the sit-in.

A Reuters photographer saw hundreds of troops in the middle of Tahrir and in military vehicles at every entrance to the normally busy thoroughfare.

Troops with machineguns rounded up several young men and pushed them into vans. Others hauled coils of barbed wire used by demonstrators and makeshift barriers erected during the protest onto military trucks.

By early evening traffic was flowing through Tahrir, a major junction of roads that was the focus of the protests. Many ordinary Egyptians are tired of the protests that have hammered the economy and disrupted their lives.

A youth coalition that helped organize the uprising said it had persuaded the remaining protesters to reopen Tahrir because they were doing the country no good by staying.

"We met with the (ruling) military council yesterday and discussed opening Tahrir. We agreed to end the protest and give the army a chance to proceed," said Mohamed Sukri, a member of the Revolutionary Youth Coalition.

Mohamed Zaidan, who said he belonged to no group and was in the square when the army arrived, gave a different account.

"We didn't agree with anyone to clear Tahrir," said the 25-year-old. "We were attacked by rock-throwing people who wanted to force us out and then the army came, didn't speak to us and suddenly moved in to force us out of the square."

(Additional reporting by Marwa Awad, Dina Zayed, and Asmaa Waguih; Writing by Edmund Blair; editing by Jeffrey Heller)