Hosni Mubarak

The life and times of the former Egyptian president

The life and times of the former Egyptian president

Born on May 4, 1928, in the village of Kafr el-Moseilha, near Cairo, Hosni Mubarak was a very private man and a bit of a fitness buff who opted for a military career.

Trained as a fighter pilot, he climbed the ranks of the Egyptian Air Force and became Air Chief Marshall after the 1973 Yom Kippur War with Israel.

In 1975, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat picked the little-known Mubarak as his vice-president and he assumed the presidency in 1981 after Islamic militants assassinated Sadat during a military parade.

Mubarak ruled for 30 years, a rather remarkable feat given the reported six assassination attempts and significant political opposition he faced — though not at the ballot box — during those decades in power.

Mubarak was Egypt's longest-serving president until he announced his resignation on Feb. 11, 2011, after an 18-day wave of pro-democracy demonstrations by hundreds of thousands of Egyptians who demanded his removal.

He was arrested two months later and held in a hospital in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh where he was said to have been suffering from heart problems. On July 17, 2011, Mubarak's lawyer claimed his client had had a stroke and had slipped into a coma. But the doctor in charge of care for the former president said Mubarak only had a bout of low blood pressure and was in stable condition.

It would be the first of several confusing claims about the former president's health until he was taken to a military hospital on June 19, 2012, after having suffered a stroke, and placed on life support.

Mubarak went on trial Aug. 3, 2011, in Cairo on on charges of corruption and conspiring in the deadly shootings of protesters during the uprising that ousted him. While lying in a hospital bed inside a cage of mesh and iron bars in a makeshift courtroom, he pleaded not guilty to the charges.

"Yes, I am here," Mubarak said into a microphone from his bed, raising his hand slightly and wagging his finger when the judge asked him to identify himself and enter a plea. "I deny all these accusations completely."

Mubarak's trial resumed Aug. 15. Judge Ahmed Rifaat decided to stop live TV broadcasts of the proceedings, and adjourned the trial for a period.

On June 2, 2012 — just weeks before the first fully contested presidential election in Egypt in almost 60 years —he and his former interior minister, Habib Al-Adly were found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment.

By that point, Mubarak was on his death bed but the prosecution of the former president was unprecedented in the Arab world, the first time a modern Mideast leader has been put on trial fully by his own people.

Political legacy

Arguably Sadat’s single greatest foreign-policy achievement was making peace with Israel in 1979, and Mubarak continued the stewardship of that agreement for three decades, despite its unpopularity with a large portion of the Egyptian populace.

Because of his friendship with Israel, Mubarak enjoyed the political and financial support of the United States, which continued to ply Egypt with aid (in 2010, the U.S. gave the country $1.3 billion in military funding alone).

Although Mubarak was seen as a valued interlocutor between the two sides of the Arab-Israeli conflict, he was unable to facilitate any lasting solutions.

On the domestic front, Mubarak will be remembered for maintaining law and order at all costs, and for presiding over a period of relative domestic stability and economic prosperity, at least for certain segments of the population.

Violence between police and Islamist groups was a hallmark of Mubarak’s reign, as was a perpetual state of emergency, which was in force since Sadat's death until just recently.

Calls for democratic reform were repeatedly stifled, and the political ambitions of the opposition Muslim Brotherhood were thwarted through intimidation, persecution and, many said, torture.

Presidential terms are six years, and Mubarak's tenure was renewed unopposed through referendums in 1987, 1993 and 1999. The 2005 vote was said to be the first contested election in the country's history, largely at the behest of the U.S. government, and seemed to herald a move to a more open electoral system.

But there was controversy even before the votes were cast, as the Muslim Brotherhood — the country's unofficial opposition — was barred from participating.

As pro-democracy efforts ramped up in early 2011, Mubarak tried to cling to power by vowing not to seek re-election in September, promising that his son Gamal would not succeed him and even pledging to introduce more democratic reforms.

Due to large-scale privatization, Egypt’s upper classes prospered tremendously during Mubarak’s tenure, while the general population grew bigger and poorer.

Personal wealth

Many protesters have cited political repression as the cause of the 2011 uprising, but there was also sustained accusations of corruption. Some sources claim the president and his two sons, Alaa and Gamal, have accumulated between $15 and $30 billion in wealth — and possibly more. Many claim that Mubarak has been enriching himself since he was in the army.