Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 December 2014

'Sad' Mubarak gives first interview

Former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak inside the defendant's cage in a courtroom in Cairo (AP/Egyptian State Television via AP video)
Former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak inside the defendant's cage in a courtroom in Cairo (AP/Egyptian State Television via AP video)

In his first comments to the media since he was detained more than two years ago, Egypt's ousted leader Hosni Mubarak said he was dismayed at the country's state of affairs and particularly the plight of the poor.

In remarks published by Al-Watan newspaper, Mubarak, 85, said that it was also too early to judge his elected successor, Islamist president Mohammed Morsi, because he had a heavy burden to deal with. He also warned against a much-negotiated loan from the International Monetary Fund, saying it would make life harder for the poor in Egypt, where more than 40% of the population lives on less than £1.30 a day.

The authenticity of the interview could not be immediately verified. Calls to Mubarak's lawyer Farid ElDeeb went unanswered, but he was quoted as telling Ahram Online, the electronic version of the state-owned Al-Ahram, that the interview was a "fabrication".

Al-Watan's reporter, Mohammed el-Sheik, took photos of himself near and inside Mubarak's medical helicopter, without the ex-leader inside. Mr El-Sheik said he conducted the interview after sneaking into a waiting area where Mubarak was held during his trial on Saturday, apparently before the hearing began. He also told the private ONTV station on Sunday that he could not record the interview because he had to avoid Mubarak's tight security.

Mubarak has been a long-time nemesis of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist group from which Mr Morsi hails. In his comments to the privately-owned Egyptian paper published on Sunday, Mubarak appeared to be gloating, painting a picture of a nation that has unravelled following his 2011 ousting, and portraying himself as a protector of the poor.

Mubarak stepped down in February 2011 in the face of a wave of popular protests whose main slogan was "Bread, Freedom and Social Justice". Protesters accused Mubarak of fostering a culture where power was centralised and police acted with impunity. They also believed Mubarak was grooming one of his sons to succeed him.

Mubarak's comments to Al-Watan also appeared to be addressing a growing segment of the population which has grown nostalgic for Mubarak's days amid continuing turmoil in the two years since he was ousted.

The country has been plagued by tenuous security and an enduring stand-off between Mr Morsi's Brotherhood and its Islamist allies and the largely secular opposition, which launched the 2011 revolt but failed to make political gains since.

Mubarak told the newspaper reporter he was "very, very sad" for impoverished Egyptians. He said he was also dismayed by the state of the economy, the industrial cities built during his nearly 30 years in office, and the country's lack of security.

The comments were Mubarak's first to be directly made to a reporter since he was ousted, and his first public statements since his captivity. They came after a hearing in his retrial for his role in the killing of more than 800 protesters during the popular uprising. At the trial, Mubarak appeared in the dock on a hospital trolley, alongside his two sons. The trial was adjourned until June 8.

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