Egypt’s Mubarak seeks to stay in Red Sea retreat


Hosni Mubarak has asked Egypt’s ruling generals to keep him in Sharm el-Sheikh despite an order to leave, army sources said, a further sign of the deposed president’s resistance to facing trial. Army sources said on Wednesday 82-year-old Mubarak wants to remain in hospital in the Red Sea resort, where he took refuge after pro-democracy protests ousted him from power in February.

“Mubarak put in a request to the military council,” an army source said, referring to the generals who took over from their former commander-in-chief. “He hopes they’ll listen.” The former president could get his wish. He has enough sympathisers within the military council, headed by his former defence minister and confidant Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, who would indulge a man they perceive as a war hero and see a public trial as a humiliation.

Mubarak was admitted to hospital with an unspecified illness the day the prosecutor ordered him detained for questioning on corruption and murder allegations. He denies wrongdoing. Mubarak’s sons, Gamal and Alaa, were also ordered detained on similar charges on the same day, and are now in prison in Cairo along with several other senior officials.

Security sources say Mubarak fears suffering the same fate, and is worried a move out of Sharm el-Sheikh would only hasten his imprisonment. Moving Mubarak to Cairo would also pose a security challenge to the army, which is worried his presence in the capital would reignite protests. “It is quite believable those in power do not want to rush the former president to trial right away,” a security official said earlier this week. “Mubarak will be transferred when the time is right, and that is unlikely to be soon.”

Prosecuting Mubarak was one of the key demands of the protesters who swept him out of office, and who only stopped challenging the military authorities and staging demonstrations after he was ordered into detention.

The prosecutor has since detained Mubarak’s former prime minister and disbanded his long-ruling National Democratic Party — all steps aimed at showing Egyptians the military is not collaborating with the former administration.

The army rulers appear to be taking a softer line when it comes to Mubarak, although security sources say he will, eventually, face justice.
“Mubarak is gradually realising that he will face legal reckoning. There is no delay in moving the legal process forward. What is going on now is a process of allowing him to adapt to his fate,” one security source said.

What ails Mubarak remains a mystery, as the army has refused to make any public comment about his health, a subject that was also taboo during his presidency.

Last week, the prosecution ordered Mubarak moved to a military hospital in Cairo, saying he would be interrogated once he is well enough. So far, Mubarak has not been pronounced well enough, although medical sources say his health is stable.

Mubarak reportedly stopped eating or taking his medication on Tuesday to persuade the army into agreeing to keep him in Sharm el-Sheikh, medical sources say.

But it is very difficult to find out exactly what the former president does in his suite at the glass-fronted, pyramid-shaped hospital because his guards allow very few people to see him.

His wife, Suzanne, and his two daughters-in-law, are daily visitors, but the same people who served him during his 30 years in power continue to look after his daily needs. He hardly interacts with any of the hospital staff, medical sources say.

Mubarak’s food continues to be cooked by his long-time Nubian chef and another loyal servant still waits on him, while all his medication and health checks are conducted by the same doctor who has looked after him for years, the sources say.

Sharm el-Sheikh, in Sinai, has been Mubarak’s retreat for decades. Local media say his sons and political allies own swathes of prime real estate and luxury villas in the booming tourist town, which is a world away from the abject poverty in which most of Egypt’s 80 million people live.