IN HIS first published comments since he was detained more than two years ago, Egypt’s fallen leader Hosni Mubarak said he is dismayed at the country’s state of affairs and particularly the plight of the poor.
The 85-year-old Mubarak, in remarks yesterday published by Al-Watan newspaper, said that it is also too early to judge his elected successor, Islamist president Mohammed Morsi, because he has 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 over 40 per cent of the population lives on less than £1.30 a day.
A lawyer for Mubarak denied the authenticity of the report but Al-Watan’s reporter, Mohammed el-Sheik, took photos of himself near and inside Mubarak’s medical helicopter, without the former leader inside. Mr El-Sheik said he conducted the interview after sneaking into a waiting area where Mubarak was held during the start of his trial in Cairo on Saturday, apparently before the hearing began.
In his comments, published yesterday, Mubarak appeared to be gloating, painting a picture of a nation that has unravelled following his 2011 fall from power 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 him 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.
His comments to the paper 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 went. The country has been plagued by tenuous security and an enduring stand-off between Mr Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood and its Islamist allies and the largely secular opposition.
Mubarak said 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 his fall, and his first public statements since his captivity. They came after a hearing in his retrial for his role in the killing 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.
Mubarak was detained two years ago and put on trial on the same charges. He has since been hospitalised, sentenced to life in prison, had his sentence overturned and then granted a retrial.
The first Arab leader to be put on trial by his own people, Mubarak is also facing corruption charges in separate cases, where prosecutors are investigating claims he amassed a fortune while in power.