A supporter of Egypt's former president Hosni Mubarak (portrait) stands outside the police academy during his trial in Cairo, on November 29, 2014
A supporter of Egypt's former president Hosni Mubarak (portrait) stands outside the police academy during his trial in Cairo, on November 29, 2014 © Mohamed El-Shahed - AFP
A supporter of Egypt's former president Hosni Mubarak (portrait) stands outside the police academy during his trial in Cairo, on November 29, 2014
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AFP
Last updated: November 29, 2014

Mubarak: fallen Egypt ruler fights back in court

Hosni Mubarak, who on Saturday escaped murder charges, ruled Egypt with an iron grip for three decades until he was forced from power by the 2011 democratic uprisings that swept the region.

The 86-year-old's spectacular fall from grace sent shock waves across the Middle East and beyond when he announced his resignation on February 11, 2011 after an 18-day popular revolt.

Just months later, in April, he was arrested and subsequently charged with various crimes, including corruption and inciting the killing of hundreds of people during the uprising.

In 2012, he was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. He appealed, and a retrial was ordered. A court on Saturday acquitted him of both sets of charges.

Mubarak, who will remain imprisoned for three years in a separate corruption case, broke into a smile after the verdict was issued.

Applause erupted and his sons and co-defendants stooped down to kiss his forehead as he lay on a stretcher inside their caged dock.

The decision came after an appeals court overturned an initial life sentence for Mubarak in 2012 on a technicality.

His lawyer said Saturday's verdict was "a good ruling that proved the integrity of Mubarak's era".

Until protests erupted on January 25, 2011, Mubarak had seemed untouchable as president of the Arab world's most populous nation, backed by the United States and the military, from whose ranks he had emerged.

He had survived 10 attempts on his life, most of them by Islamists, but in the end, it was a popular uprising that brought him down.

- Unexpected rise to power -

It was a blow he found hard to accept.

After his overthrow, Mubarak said he and his family were the victims of "false claims that seek to ruin my reputation and challenge my integrity".

And following his life sentence, his health deteriorated and he spent much of his time in a military-run hospital.

He recovered but was reportedly deeply depressed by the election of Mohamed Morsi, the candidate of his long-time foe the Muslim Brotherhood, as president later the same month.

Morsi has been held in detention since the army deposed him in July 2013.

Mubarak rose to power unexpectedly, when president Anwar Sadat, who made history by signing a peace deal with Israel, was gunned down by an Islamist officer at a military parade on October 6, 1981.

He took office a week later and ruled without interruption until his overthrow.

- Guarded private life -

Islamist militants were responsible for most of the attempts to kill Mubarak, including a failed bid to fire rockets at his plush Cairo residence.

In 1995, militants opened fire on his motorcade in Addis Ababa.

With his jet black hair, which he has maintained even in jail, Mubarak had a reputation for vigour and was once known to play squash almost daily.

But that image suffered in 2003 when he fainted while addressing parliament.

In 2004, he underwent surgery for a slipped disc in Germany, where he returned in 2010 for the removal of his gall bladder and a growth on the small intestine.

Mubarak, whose wife Suzanne is half Welsh, has always kept his private life a carefully guarded secret.

He was born on May 4, 1928 in the Nile Delta village of Menufiyah and rose through the ranks of the air force, fighting in repeated wars with Israel, before supporting Sadat in pursuing peace with the Jewish state in 1979.

In office, he maintained the unpopular policy of peace with Israel and accommodation with the West that cost Sadat his life.

Mubarak's government was the frequent target of domestic opposition -- ranging from the Brotherhood to secular and liberal dissidents -- who were often jailed.

His regime mercilessly crushed militant groups, which carried out attacks in the 1980s, 1990s and in 2004 and 2006, when tourist resorts were targeted.

Mubarak's ties with the US and Israel drew criticism from across the region, especially during the 2006 Israeli war in Lebanon and Israel's Gaza offensive in 2008-2009.

A few days into the uprising, Washington deserted him -- belatedly in the view of many Egyptians -- and it was only some Gulf Arab states that backed him to the end.

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