11 July 2024

Egypt’s former president Hosni Mubarak, who ruled for three decades before he was ousted amid the Arab Spring protests in 2011, died Tuesday at age 91.

The burly autocrat with the trademark sunglasses went on to spend years behind bars for his role in the deaths of protesters but was freed in 2017 after the convictions were overturned.

His death was confirmed by the presidency and on state TV, and his son Alaa Mubarak tweeted that “this morning my father, president Mubarak, passed away”.

Mubarak’s brother-in-law, General Mounir Thabet, told AFP that the family was by Mubarak’s side at the hospital.

A military funeral was planned for Wednesday, a senior official told AFP.

Mubarak had long been battling illness and was recently admitted to a Cairo military hospital’s intensive care unit.

Tributes poured in from leaders in the Middle East, where Mubarak, a key ally of the United States, had at times served as a mediator, especially in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised Mubarak’s commitment to “peace and security” while Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas said he mourned the death “with great sorrow” and hailed Mubarak’s support of the Palestinian cause.

– Dodged bullets –

The long-time president started off as an air force pilot and was commander of the armed forces in the 1973 war with Israel.

He took power in 1981, following the assassination of former president Anwar al-Sadat by Islamist militants.

Mubarak was sitting near Sadat but survived, going on to dodge bullets and get away during several more attempts on his life, including one by Islamist militants in 1995 in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.

He remained head of state for three decades but was overthrown after three weeks of mass protests that started on January 25, 2011.

His ouster came amid mounting popular anger triggered partly by rampant police brutality and by 2010 parliamentary elections which were widely slammed as rigged.

Mubarak faced multiple charges after his overthrow, including over the deaths of protesters in 2011 and for corruption.

After years of protracted trials and legal proceedings, he was cleared of the charges.

– ‘History will decide’ –

Under Mubarak’s 30-year-rule, Egyptians lived under emergency laws that gave sweeping powers to the country’s security agencies.

Internationally, Mubarak garnered respect as a regional power broker, including in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Anwar Gargash, the United Arab Emirates’ minister of state for foreign affairs, hailed him as “a statesman … who espoused nationalistic and historical positions”.

The former head of the International Atomic Agency, Mohamed El-Baradei, who was a key opposition figure in the waning years of Mubarak, paid his respects.

“May God have mercy on the former president … and grant his family patience and comfort,” he said on Twitter.

Other opposition activists who were prominent in the revolution that unseated Mubarak, such as Wael Ghoneim, were also forgiving in their words on social media.

“He was loyal and loving of Egypt … He took on a great responsibility towards the Egyptian people,” wrote Ghoneim on Twitter.

“He was right a lot of the time and also wrong a lot of the time … history will decide.”

Former presidential candidate Ayman Nour — who ran against Mubarak in multi-candidate elections widely seen as fraudulent in 2005, lost and was subsequently jailed — was also conciliatory in his tone.

“I promise to God I personally forgive him,” he said.