Former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak was under arrest last night as prosecutors launched an investigation into alleged corruption and abuses of power during his hardline 30-year rule.
The 82-year-old one-time ally of Britain and the United States is in hospital after a suspected heart attack, but Egypt’s prosecutor-general still went ahead with a 15-day detention order yesterday.
With the army cracking down on renewed protests in Cairo, the symbolic move was seen to be aimed at winning a respite for the military rulers by quashing suspicions that they were shielding their former commander from investigation.
The two sons of Mr Mubarak, who was forced from office by the popular uprising in February, were also arrested.
Their father was believed to have been grooming younger son Gamal, a top official in the ruling party, to succeed him, before the family was swept from power.
As a police van took away Gamal Mubarak and his businessman brother Alaa, the crowd pelted the vehicle with water bottles, stones and flip-flops, a sign of disrespect in the Arab world.
‘Brothers, whatever you wanted, you have got … 15 days,’ Major General el-Khatib told the cheering crowd.
Dozens of demonstrators picketed the hospital where Mubarak was reportedly receiving treatment, denouncing the president and carrying a sign reading “Here is the butcher.” They scuffled with supporters of Mubarak amid a massive security presence.
Two security officials said Mubarak arrived under heavy police protection to the main hospital and, according to two doctors in the hospital, he stepped out of his armoured Mercedes unaided and was taken to the presidential suite in the pyramid-shaped building.
The protest movement that deposed Mubarak is now pushing for him to be brought to justice for what they say are decades of abuse and since Friday, hundreds have reoccupied parts of Tahrir Square in Cairo.
The protesters had criticised the army for being too close to the old regime and not swiftly bringing Mubarak to trial.
Today, however, a scuffle broke out when some residents tried to break up the four-day sit-in, removing barbed-wire and barricades. The army then moved in and took control of the square and cordoned off the once grassy roundabout that had been the centre of many demonstrations.
Sanaa Seif, a 17-year-old on the scene, said she saw the army forcibly remove people. Egypt’s state news agency reported that the military police had detained a number of ‘outlaw thugs’ at the square.
Mubarak has been suffering for a number of ailments and underwent gallbladder surgery in Germany in March last year.
He has kept a low profile since he was ousted, living on his compound in Sharm el-Sheikh. He was banned from travelling and his assets have been frozen. Many of his senior aides have already either been questioned or detained pending investigations.
Egypt’s state TV reported that Safwat el-Sherif, a senior aide of Mubarak and one of the most powerful men in his regime, was ordered detained for an additional 15 days pending investigation into his role in attacks on protesters during the uprising.
El-Sherif had already been remanded into custody for 15 days pending corruption investigations.
On Sunday, Mubarak defended himself in a pre-recorded message saying he had not abused his authority, and investigators were welcome to check over his assets.
It was his first address to the people in the two months since he stepped down. Shortly after, the prosecutor general issued a summons for Mubarak to appear for questioning.
Deciding on the site for the interrogation was a dilemma for the authorities who wanted to grant the ailing president a degree of privacy and security.
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