Days of confusion end with the Mubaraks detained

Yasmine Fathi , Wednesday 13 Apr 2011

Through all the rumours and intrigue surrounding the possible fate of Hosni Mubarak and his boys, a clear line can be drawn between today's announcement of their detention and the day the former president fell

Mubarak's family watching the eclipse of the sun few years ago. (photo file)

The prosecutor-general has sentenced former president Hosni Mubarak and his two sons to 15 days in jail, pending investigations.

Mubarak is accused of killing protesters in Tahrir Square during the January 25 Revolution. His sons Alaa and Gamal arrived in Tora jail early this morning, in what witnesses say was a state of “disbelief.” The duo are expected to be questioned by the Illicit Gains Authority for profiteering, wasting public funds and illegally accumulating their wealth in the next few days.

In a statement released earlier today, Prosecutor-General Abdel Meguid Mahmoud said that following investigations, he decided that Mubarak and his sons Alaa and Gamal will be detained for 15 days. The prosecutor added that the trio will be questioned on 14 April in the prosecutor’s office in the Fifth Settlement suburb of Cairo.

Following concerns raised by the interior minister, Mansour El-Essawy, that the ousted president’s poor health would make it hard for him to travel to Cairo from Sinai, where he has been since stepping down on 11 February, the prosecution has decided to have him assessed by a medical committee in Sharm El-Sheikh. A medical examination revealed him to be in poor health and in need of medical attention while being questioned. As a result, Mahmoud decided to question Mubarak in the Sharm El-Sheikh International Hospital, saying that it does not violate the law.

The statement came after two days of tension and confusion as rumours and contradictory reports of Mubarak’s arrest and detainment swirled around.

The net tightens

On Sunday, the ousted president broke his two-month silence to speak publicly for the first time in a pre-recorded statement broadcast on the Saudi Al-Arabia satellite news channel. In the broadcast, Mubarak denied accusations that he accumulated his wealth by illegal means and expressed his willingness to cooperate with the prosecutor-general.

The speech was seen by many as a ploy by the former president to avoid standing trial. However, immediately after the tape was aired the prosecutor-general promptly released a statement that the former president’s speech will not affect proceedings against him and his family. This was followed by another statement by El-Essawy to affirm that “all security precautions” were in place to ensure the safety of Mubarak and his sons when they are summoned for questioning.

On Monday, Egyptian Prime Minister Essam Sharaf gave his first official televised address to the nation in which he said that legal steps are underway for Mubarak to be officially questioned over charges of corruption, stressing that "no one is above the law.”

The next day it was announced that Mubarak was to be questioned after all by authorities over charges that during his 30-year reign he abused his powers to accumulate a fortune. Mubarak, who has been residing in the Maritime Jolie Ville resort in Sharm El-Sheikh since he stepped down on February 11, was flown to the prosecution’s headquarters in South Sinai capital of Tor. At the same time, investigative sessions for his two sons began in an undisclosed location in Cairo.

It was reported later in the day that Mubarak was transferred to the Sharm El-Sheikh International Hospital after suffering a “minor heart attack” while being questioned. Reports that Mubarak may need a week to recover were dismissed by the minister of health, Ashraf Hatem, who stated that his condition was stable. Hatem added that the prosecution’s questioning would continue in the hospital. At the same time, Alaa and Gamal were also flown to Tor to be questioned. The duo were supposed to be questioned in the Fifth Settlement but the plan was changed due to security problems and they were flown to Tor instead before being transferred to Sharm El-Sheikh when their father fell ill.

Now, a source told Ahram Online that the president is being moved to the military hospital in Hadayk El-Quba in Cairo to continue his treatment.

When news spread that Mubarak was in the hospital, a protest erupted in front of the hospital building yesterday evening, with protesters chanting anti-Mubarak slogans.

The hospital was secured by policemen and military officers. Another protest erupted early today with protesters demanding that the former president be moved from Sharm El-Sheikh. The protesters, many of whom work in the tourism industry, were angered that his presence in the resort was adversely affecting tourism.

Revolution frustrated, the deal is off

Mubarak’s trial has been a thorny issue for the military council since he stepped down from power two months ago. Many of the protesters and youth movements who participated in the January 25 revolution insisted that Mubarak must stand trial, but weeks passed without any indication from the prosecutor-general that the former president will be questioned.

This frustration boiled over on 1 April when more than a quarter of a million protesters returned to Tahrir Square, demanding that Mubarak and his sons stand trial. Decisions by the prosecutor-general to freeze the assets of Mubarak’s inner circle of cronies, including Safwat El-Sherif, Fathi Sorour and Zakaria Azmi, did not soothe the protesters.

On 8 April, dubbed the “Friday of Cleansing”, protesters held a “popular trial” for Mubarak in Tahrir Square and called witnesses including the mother of Khaled Said, who was murdered by police in Alexandria in June 2010; a death that many view as one of the triggers of the revolution.

Today, however, many of these protesters rejoiced with the announcement of Mubarak’s detainment.

“Victory for the martyrs, Victory of the revolution,” the 6 April Youth Movement wrote on their Facebook page. “One thousand congratulations to every Egyptian, the revolution is back on track, the jailing of the tyrant and his children is the best news. Each one of them got 15 days in jail and more to come, congratulations to the Egyptians.”

While the revolutionaries feel that they played a massive role in sending Mubarak to jail, political scientist Emad Gad says that Mubarak’s actions in the past few months may indicate that the fallen dictator dug his own grave.

“I believe that the military council made a deal with Mubarak before he left,” explains Gad. “The deal was that they would help secure his departure from Cairo to Sharm El-Sheikh and in turn he would stay out of Egypt’s political life, but it appears that all this talk about counter-revolution and the rumours that some of the remnants of the NDP, including his children, were actively trying to cause chaos and a security vacuum in the country meant that he broke the deal.”

This, says Gad, was the reason behind the delay in arresting the trio. He points out that if the military council had revealed earlier that Mubarak was masterminding a counter-revolution, he would have been arrested earlier. Now, however many fear that Mubarak has used the last two months to hide his wealth, widely believed to be in the billions.

“Because this period passed without his assets being frozen, it’s possible that they hid it and it will be impossible to return or retrace,” says Gad.

But says, Gad, it is very telling that Mubarak has been charged with killing protesters.

“Profiteering and wasting public funds are bad, but to be charged with killing protesters means that he may receive the death sentence,” says Gad.

However, he adds that it took a lot of effort to get Mubarak to this place. He points out that a lot of pressure was being put on the military council by Saudi Arabia and the Emirates to not try the former president. They, said Gad, used all points of pressure including threats to return the millions of Egyptians who work in these countries and promises of financial aid.

“I believe that the military council would have happily agreed, but the reports of a counter-revolution broke the deal,” says Gad.

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