x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Hosni Mubarak 'hurting from unjust campaigns' against him

Egypt's deposed president said yesterday that the corruption allegations against him and his family were false.

CAIRO // Egypt's deposed president Hosni Mubarak ended two months of silence yesterday to deny allegations of corruption and argue that he and his family were the victims of a smear campaign.

Mr Mubarak's taped remarks to Al Arabiya television were broadcast almost simultaneously with an announcement by Egypt's prosecutor general that he would question the former president and his sons over allegations that they appropriated public funds and led a violent suppression of the youth-led protests that ultimately ousted them from power.

The duelling statements followed a week in which prominent political figures and tens of thousands of demonstrators called on prosecutors to bring charges against the former president of Egypt.

The latest developments will doubtless heat up an already contentious debate gripping the country over whether to subject Mr Mubarak to a public trial that could prove politically divisive at a highly delicate time in Egypt's history.

"I was hurt very much, and I am still hurting - my family and I - from the unjust campaigns against us and false allegations that aim to smear my reputation, my integrity, my stances and my military history," said Mr Mubarak, a former general in the Egyptian air force.

The ex-president denied that he owned assets abroad and offered to open his family's financial records to prosecutors to prove that he possessed only a single bank account in Egypt.

"I agree to authorise the prosecutor-general in writing to allow him to contact, through the foreign ministry, all countries in the world to prove to them that I and my wife agree to show any accounts or properties I have possessed starting from my military and political career until now to prove to the people that their former president only owns domestically, according to previous financial disclosure."

The prosecutor general could also investigate whether Mr Mubarak and his family owned any properties "directly or indirectly, commercially or for private use", the former president added.

In the two months since Mr Mubarak resigned his post, Egyptians have been incensed by fast-circulating reports of corruption. Among the allegations is the often-heard assertion that the Mubarak family stole billions of dollars from the mostly impoverished country, and spirited the money abroad.

One popular — though highly speculative — estimate puts the family's wealth at between $40-70 billion (Dh146-257bn).

Mr Mubarak threatened legal action against his accusers yesterday, saying: "I reserve my legal rights toward whoever tried to ruin me and my family's reputation."

The remarks by Mr Mubarak came the same afternoon that Egypt's public prosecution office announced it would question the former president and his two sons, Gamal and Alaa.

The prosecutors want to know more about allegations that the ex-president and his sons illegally profited from business deals and seized public funds, the state news agency Mena reported.

The prosecutors will also question the three men on allegations that they organised violence against protesters during demonstrations in January and February, Mena reported.

The Supreme Council of Armed Forces last Tuesday formally opened Mr Mubarak's investigation. The military council announced the formation of a judicial panel to probe his wealth.

Mr Mubarak's domestic bank accounts were frozen last month and he remains under house arrest at his house in Sharm el Sheikh.

A spokesman for the Supreme Council, Major General Ismail Etman, said Saturday that the final decision on whether to prosecute Mr Mubarak lay with the country's judiciary.

Gen Etman also denied widespread rumours that the military had offered the former president judicial immunity, according to a report in Al Masry al Youm, an Egyptian daily.

In the last two weeks, the military has faced increased criticism for allegedly moving too slowly to press the case against Mr Mubarak.

A mass rally in Tahrir Square Friday was organised in response to calls for a trial, and the issue has become a sticking point for the youth protesters who first organised demonstrations against Mr Mubarak on January 25.

The Coalition of Revolutionary Youth (CRY), which suspended talks with the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces yesterday in response to violent clashes between the military and youth early Saturday morning, would not resume the dialogue unless Mr Mubarak and his associates are charged, said Nasser Abdulhamid, a spokesman.

The CRY includes several prominent secular youth protest groups as well as yong men from the Muslim Brotherhood, the country's largest Islamist group.

"We are postponing our negotiations until they start their interrogations into the incidents of the day before yesterday, and until they start the trial of the ex-president and his men, and until they release the detainees," Mr Abdulhamid told a press conference.

"After this we will work to continue our dialogue with them on a different basis."