CAIRO – In the first remarks since his ouster, former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak denied allegations that he used his position to amass wealth and property in a speech broadcast Sunday, as hundreds of protesters occupying the heart of Cairo shouted for him to be brought to trial.
Mubarak, forced out of office two months ago by a popular uprising, said he was willing to cooperate in any investigation to prove that he did not own property abroad or possess foreign bank accounts.
Shortly after Mubarak’s pre-recorded speech was aired, Egypt’s prosecutor general told state TV he issued orders Sunday summoning the ex-president and his two sons for questioning. The station quoted a prosecution spokesman as saying the scope of the investigation of Mubarak and his sons would include the crackdown on protesters that killed an estimated 300 people, as well as the corruption allegations.
Holding Mubarak and top officials in his government accountable for the violence is a central demand of anti-Mubarak movement.
The pan-Arab news channel Al-Arabiya, which broadcast the speech, said it was recorded Saturday, a day after demonstrators gathered in huge numbers in Cairo to demand that the military council that took over for Mubarak launch an investigation into his wealth. There was no video image accompanying the recording of Mubarak’s voice.
The speech seemed to be as much about preserving his dignity as about denying the accusations against him.
“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 (political) stances and my military history,” Mubarak said.
Egyptians fed up with poverty, corruption and political repression forced Mubarak to leave office on Feb. 11 after 18 days of mass demonstrations.
Friday’s protest in Cairo’s Tahrir Square by tens of thousands was the biggest since then. Despite constitutional amendments to allow free elections and other steps toward a freer political scene, many people in the anti-Mubarak movement are growing impatient with the ruling military’s transitional leadership and skeptical of its pledges to meet all demands.
Trust between the military and the reform movement suffered a serious setback after Friday’s demonstrations when soldiers stormed their protest camp in the middle of the night, killing at least one person and injuring 71 others.
That increased calls for the resignation of the head of the military council running the country, Defense Minister Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, a Mubarak appointee. It also spurred protesters to retake Tahrir Square, shutting down traffic in the heart of the city.
On Sunday, hundreds remained barricaded there behind barbed wire and burned-out troop carriers.
Since his ouster, Mubarak and his family have been under house arrest at a presidential palace in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, their assets frozen. But Mubarak has not been charged.
In his speech, the former president said he only possessed a single account in an Egyptian bank and only held property in Egypt. He said he would agree in writing, if requested, to allow the prosecutor-general to contact other countries to investigate whether he or his wife, Suzanne, owned any accounts or property abroad.
“I agree to authorize 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.”
A legal committee from the Justice Ministry was formed last week to investigate any Mubarak assets abroad.
Sunday’s summoning for questioning was the first to include accusations about Mubarak’s role in the violence against protesters.
Mubarak also said he would allow Egypt’s prosecutor general to investigate whether he, his wife or his wealthy businessmen sons, Alaa and Gamal, owned any real estate or properties “directly or indirectly, commercially or for private use” since the time Mubarak assumed office in 1981.
Mubarak’s alleged improper dealings range from giving top officials and tycoons preferential treatment in land contracts, to selling state industries at a fraction of their value during Egypt’s privatization process since the early 1990s, and handing out other perks that let his allies build their wealth exponentially.