Ousted Egyptian leader Mubarak freed

VIDEO: REUTERS
Mr Mubarak in hospital last October. He became the first leader to face trial after the Arab Spring uprisings that swept the region, and has remained defiant since his ouster in 2011.
Mr Mubarak in hospital last October. He became the first leader to face trial after the Arab Spring uprisings that swept the region, and has remained defiant since his ouster in 2011.PHOTO: REUTERS

After six years in detention, he is cleared of final murder charges

CAIRO • Mr Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian president overthrown in 2011 and the first leader to face trial after the Arab Spring uprisings that swept the region, was freed yesterday after six years in detention, his lawyer said.

He left the Maadi Military Hospital in Cairo where he had been held, and went to his home in the upscale Cairo neighbourhood of Heliopolis, Mr Mubarak's lawyer Farid El Deeb told Reuters.

The 88-year-old was cleared of the final murder charges against him this month, after facing trial in a litany of cases ranging from corruption to the killing of protesters, whose 18-day revolt stunned the world and ended his 30-year rule.

Mr Mubarak was initially arrested in April 2011, two months after leaving office, and has since been held in prison and in military hospitals under heavy guard.

He had remained defiant since his ouster, sneering at the movement in January and February 2011 that shook the foundations of the venal police state he sculpted over three decades.

Months after he was forced from power, Mr Mubarak was placed on trial for his role in trying to quash the protests in which 850 people were killed. Wheeled into court on a gurney, wearing his trademark sunglasses and looking disgusted, he denied the charges. He was later sentenced to life in jail.

This month, after a final acquittal in the protester-killing case, the prosecution said he was free to go.

The overthrow of Mr Mubarak, one of several military men to rule Egypt since the 1952 abolition of the monarchy, embodied the hopes of the Arab Spring uprisings that shook autocrats from Tunisia to the Gulf and briefly raised hopes of a new era of democracy and social justice in the region.

His release takes that journey full circle, marking what his critics say is the return of the old order to Egypt, where the authorities have crushed Mr Mubarak's enemies in the Muslim Brotherhood, killing hundreds and jailing thousands, while his allies regain influence.

Many Egyptians who lived through his presidency view it as a period of stagnation, autocracy and crony capitalism. But others began to yearn for the banality of Mr Mubarak's era.

Years of political tumult and worsening security have hit the economy, just as Mr Mubarak always warned. Egyptians complain of empty pockets and rumbling bellies as inflation exceeds 30 per cent.

A bland politician, he became known to the opposition as "The Pharaoh" as his reign stretched on.

But he did prove to be an adept politician. He maintained a peace treaty with Israel - the reason his predecessor Anwar Sadat was assassinated - and became a main player in the US-sponsored Israeli-Palestinian peace process more than a decade later.

Through his trial, Mr Mubarak seemed baffled by the people's anger, insistent that he had done his best for his country and adamant that history would vindicate him. Many Egyptians say the turbulent six years since their ill-fated flirtation with revolutionary change already have.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 25, 2017, with the headline 'Ousted Egyptian leader Mubarak freed'. Print Edition | Subscribe