Egypt holds funeral for former president Mubarak

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Egyptian guards carry a wreath honouring Egypt's former president Hosni Mubarak outside Cairo's Mosheer Tantawy mosque, on Feb 26, 2020. PHOTO: AFP

CAIRO (REUTERS) - Egypt held a military funeral in Cairo on Wednesday (Feb 26) to bury its former president Hosni Mubarak, who ruled for 30 years until he was ousted in a 2011 popular uprising against corruption.

Horses drew Mr Mubarak's coffin draped in the Egyptian flag at a mosque complex, followed by a procession led by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Egypt's top military brass, Mr Mubarak's sons Alaa and Gamal, and other Egyptian and Arab dignitaries.

Mr Mubarak died on Tuesday at age 91 in intensive care weeks after undergoing surgery, leaving Egyptians divided over his legacy presiding over an era of stagnation and repression, which some nevertheless recall as more stable than the chaos that followed.

He was swept out of power as an early victim of the "Arab Spring" revolutions that swept the region in 2011. He spent many of the subsequent years in jail and military hospitals before being freed in 2017.

Egypt's presidency and armed forces mourned the former air force officer as a hero for his role in the 1973 Arab-Israeli war. The presidency declared three days of national mourning.

Mr Mubarak's coffin was to be airlifted from the Field Marshall Tantawi mosque to the family burial grounds, state television reported.

Dozens of Mubarak supporters, some from his home village Kafr al-Meselha in the Nile Delta, gathered outside the mosque, where the military funeral will take place.

"I am happy that his pride was restored (after his removal), and for the state's appreciation for him after his death," said Ms Zeenat Touhami, a 35-year-old woman from Cairo. "This is the history of 30 years, the farewell of 30 years".

Mr Mohamed Zaree, a human rights activist, said the present era of autocracy and economic hardship is worse than Mr Mubarak's era.

President Sisi, who came to power after leading the overthrow of Mr Mubarak's Islamist successor, Mohamed Mursi, has overseen a broad crackdown on dissent, which rights groups say is the most severe in recent memory.

"Mubarak's era was painful (but) this era is much more difficult and painful in terms of freedoms and economic conditions," Mr Zaree said.

Many of the activists who helped organise mass protests which ousted Mr Mubarak are now behind bars or live in exile abroad. Mr Sisi's supporters say a crackdown was needed to stabilise the country after the turmoil that followed 2011.

Mr Mubarak was sentenced to life in prison for conspiring to murder 239 demonstrators during the 18-day revolt in 2011, but was freed in 2017 after being cleared of those charges.

He was also convicted in 2015 along with his two sons of diverting public funds to upgrade family properties. They were sentenced to three years in jail.

Egyptian state and private newspapers ran front page pictures of Mr Mubarak, while state TV showed excerpts of previous speeches.

This was a stark contrast to the treatment of his successor, Mr Mursi, Egypt's first freely elected leader, who lasted only a year in office before the army toppled him. Mr Mursi, 67, died last year after collapsing in court while on trial on espionage charges.

Egyptian media, which is tightly controlled, paid little attention to his death.

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