News / Africa

Mubarak - Egypt's Controversial Former Leader

Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is wheeled into a holding cell in the court room in the police academy on the outskirt of the capital Cairo, where he faces murder charges, August 3, 2011
Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is wheeled into a holding cell in the court room in the police academy on the outskirt of the capital Cairo, where he faces murder charges, August 3, 2011

Former Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak - on trial for ordering the killing of protesters during the revolution that deposed him - was credited by some with keeping Egypt stable during his 30-year rule. Others say that stability came at too high a price.

The 83-year-old former air force commander attained the presidency in 1981 after militants assassinated his predecessor, Anwar Sadat.

Mubarak was Sadat's vice president and was next to him when he was shot dead at a military parade in the capital, Cairo. Mubarak himself has survived at least six assassination attempts.

Under Mubarak, Egypt maintained peace with Israel and close ties with the West. His government was a key ally of the United States in efforts to advance the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. The embattled leader also earned Western support for cracking down on Islamic extremism.

At home, however, President Mubarak's policies angered many. He kept the country under a deeply unpopular emergency law that restricted basic freedoms and gave the police sweeping powers of arrest. Members of the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's leading opposition group, faced frequent arrests and extended detentions.

Anger also grew over high unemployment and poverty. Although Mubarak's reforms led to a boom in Egypt's economy, they are blamed for widening the gap between rich and poor.

Mubarak's hold on the country fell apart about six months ago, when more than two weeks of massive street protests in Cairo and other cities forced him to resign on February 11.

Mubarak took a step toward democratic reform in 2005 by allowing the nation's first multi-candidate presidential election, but he later jailed his main opponent, Ayman Nour, on corruption charges. In last year's parliamentary elections, the president's National Democratic Party crushed the opposition amid widespread accusations of intimidation and vote rigging.

Mubarak's perceived grooming of his son Gamal as his successor also drew resentment from Egyptians.

The president has two sons with his half-British wife, Suzanne, a graduate of the American University in Cairo. Both men are also on trial with their father.

There have been lingering questions about Mubarak's health. In March 2010, he traveled to Germany where he underwent surgery to remove his gall bladder. At his trial, he was lying in a bed in the courtroom.

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