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Middle East
Prosecutors Order Mubarak and Sons Held
Amr Nabil/Associated Press
Policemen guarded a minibus carrying Alaa and Gamal Mubarak, as it arrived at the courthouse in Sharm el Sheik early Wednesday.
By DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK and LIAM STACK
Published: April 13, 2011
CAIRO — With tensions rising between Egypt’s military rulers and demonstrators, the authorities here took a major step toward satisfying the protesters’ demands for retribution against Hosni Mubarak​, ordering the detention of the former president and his two sons.
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Amr Nabil/Associated Press
Protesters gathered outside the hospital in Sharm el Sheik, where Hosni Mubarak was staying.
The detention, announced by a prosecutor appointed by Mr. Mubarak before his ouster in February, represents a breathtaking reversal for Egypt’s former strongman, whose grip seemed so unshakable just three months ago that some thought he could hand over power directly to his son Gamal.
The three will be questioned about corruption and abuse of power during Mr. Mubarak’s three-decade rule, the authorities said Wednesday. The Egyptian Health Ministry has said that more than 800 people were killed during the 18-day revolt that ended Mr. Mubarak’s rule.
The detention is also the latest twist in the unfinished story of a revolution that became a touchstone for the broader Arab Spring. The military officers who seized power and pledged a transition to democracy after Mr. Mubarak stepped down have faced escalating street protests calling for his prosecution and, increasingly, criticism for the slow pace of political reforms.
The military has cracked down with mounting force, beating and torturing as many as 200 protesters over the last several weeks and killing two in a clash early on Saturday​, rights groups say. On Wednesday some human rights activists complained that the transitional government’s actions against the Mubaraks and many of their top allies risked perpetuating the pattern of extralegal and politically motivated detentions under the Mubarak government.
Military leaders have sought to deflect blame for the violence to Mr. Mubarak and his former ruling party. In a statement issued Saturday, for example, the governing military council asserted that it was “remnants” of the Mubarak government who had incited the violence in Tahrir Square here on Saturday morning.
On Wednesday, Gamal — said to be in “total disbelief” — and his brother, Alaa, were jailed here in Tora Prison, where many of their closest allies have been imprisoned as well. State television reported that Mr. Mubarak, 82, was in police custody at a hospital in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el Sheik after a heart attack.
The Egyptian prosecutor said Wednesday that he had ordered Mr. Mubarak and his sons detained for interrogation for 15 days — a standard legal procedure under the Mubarak government that could be renewed, as it often was, and extended for far longer periods. The governing military council had previously said only that Mr. Mubarak and his family were barred from leaving the country. Since leaving office on Feb. 11, he has resided with his sons at the family home in Sharm el Sheik.
During questioning on Tuesday, the state-run newspaper Al Ahram reported, Mr. Mubarak complained of chest pains. He was taken to the hospital, but his affliction was evidently mild enough that prosecutors continued questioning him Tuesday night. On Wednesday, however, state television reported that he would remain hospitalized.
The English-language Web site of Al Ahram reported Wednesday, citing an unnamed source, that the two Mubarak sons had arrived at the prison unshaven and wearing white training outfits. “Gamal did not look like the Gamal we have seen on TV; he is in a state of total disbelief,” the unnamed source at the prison was quoted as saying.
Word of the detention of the Mubarak brothers ignited exuberant demonstrations in Sharm el Sheik, with a crowd of young men chanting, “15 days!” and “God is great!” in the face of riot police officers who stood guard as the two were driven away, according to amateur video. The Associated Press reported that a crowd pelted the police van with water bottles, stones and flip-flops.
Mubarak critics in Cairo cheered the news as well. “On the road to protecting the revolution,” Mohamed ElBaradei​, the former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency who became a critic of Mr. Mubarak and is now a candidate to succeed him, said in a Twitter message. “We now need to focus on achieving its goals.”
Abdullah el-Ashaal, a former Foreign Ministry official who is another presidential candidate, argued that the military council had acceded to the protesters’ demands to prosecute Mr. Mubarak in part to protect the military from public wrath.
“The military wanted to put an end to all the suspicions surrounding it and to the accusation that they were with Mubarak and not with the revolution. Things had reached the point where people started to call for toppling Tantawi,” Mr. Ashaal said. Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi​, the military’s leader, is now the de facto head of state.
“We want to see Mubarak executed,” Mr. Ashaal added. “Did Mubarak not execute the Egyptian people?”
Others were more cautious. “As gratifying as it is to hear that the unseated dictator has been interrogated and detained, we remain concerned about the lack of a transparent and predictable process for investigating and prosecuting past abuses, whether financial corruption or human rights violations,” Hossam Bahgat, executive director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights and a leading civil rights advocate, wrote in an e-mail.
“The only guarantee against politically motivated prosecutions and arbitrary trials is to establish a formal and credible process of transitional justice,” he wrote.
Tora Prison, where the Mubarak sons were taken, already holds many prominent figures from their father’s government: Ahmed Nazif, the former prime minister; Habib el-Adly, the former minister of the interior who led the crackdown against anti-Mubarak demonstrators; Ahmed Ezz, a businessman and former governing party power broker; Safwat el-Sherif, a former lawmaker and secretary general of the party; and Zakariya Azmi, Mr. Mubarak’s former chief of staff.
Next Page »
Mona El-Naggar contributed reporting.
A version of this article appeared in print on April 14, 2011, on page A9 of the New York edition.
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