Last Updated: Tue May 17, 2011 09:42 am (KSA) 06:42 am (GMT)

Mubarak to apologize, plead for amnesty, as army asks Egyptians to rebuild nation

Photo illustration by Noor Duaibis.
Photo illustration by Noor Duaibis.

Former president Hosni Mubarak is to apologize to the nation and plead for amnesty, three months after he was overthrown by a popular uprising, the country’s military leader called on his people to help improve internal security and work for a better economy.

A report in Tuesday’s edition of the independent daily al-Shorouk quoted Egyptian and Arab official sources as saying that Mr. Mubarak was “drafting a letter which will be broadcast on Egyptian and Arabic channels, apologizing on behalf of himself and his family for any offence caused to the people.”

He is also to apologize “for any behavior which may have stemmed from false information passed on to him by his advisers.”

This point is especially intriguing because it would seem to give Mr. Mubarak denial—which is to say, he could point fingers at former associates, some of whom are already under investigation or have been sentenced after speedy trials. However transparent Mr. Mubarak’s strategy might be, it could offer Egypt’s current military rulers a way out from prosecuting their ailing former boss. In any case, it is considered unlikely that the courts would condemn Mr. Mubarak to death—as some revolutionaries have demanded—or even incarcerate him. Such moves would conceivably turn world opinion against Egypt at a time when the beleaguered nation has many economic and social problems to tackle.

The former president and his wife Suzanne are under arrest in a hospital in the Red Sea resort of Sharm al-Sheikh after both of them suffered heart attacks during interrogation as part of a graft probe.

Mr. Mubarak is also ready to hand over his assets to the state in a bid to have the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces “look into an amnesty,” the paper said.

A military source told al-Shorouk that several Egyptian and Arab parties had been requesting an amnesty for Mr. Mubarak, 83, “within an acceptable legal framework.”

The amnesty would apply to Mr. Mubarak, his 70-year-old wife Suzanne, and their two sons Alaa and Gamal who are held in Cairo’s Tora Prison on corruption charges, but sources say it is unlikely to be granted to the sons, the paper said.

Before the popular uprising, which ousted the president, Mr. Gamal, who was close to business executives and held a top post in Egypt’s ruling party, was regarded as his father’s successor, while Alaa concentrated on business.

The wives of Mr. Alaa and Mr. Gamal, Heidi Rasekh and Khadiga al-Gammal, have also been questioned over the Mubarak family’s reported wealth, according to Agence-France Presse.

On Monday, Suzanne Mubarak pledged to hand over to the state money in two bank accounts and a luxury villa in Cairo. (An earlier report said that Mrs. Mubarak told prosecutors that she would hand over $3 million.)

As well as allegedly illegally acquiring wealth during his presidency, Mr. Mubarak was also asked about having personal control of the $145-million bank account of the Alexandria Library. The library was built under the stewardship of Ismail Serageldin, a former World Bank official whose reputation for integrity and probity has been long established.

Authorities have also questioned Mr. Mubarak over the order to shoot anti-regime protests that rallied across the country for 18 days to demand his ouster.

At least 846 people were killed during the protests and over 6,000 injured.

The military council that took over following Mr. Mubarak’s resignation on February 11 has pledged to bring to justice all former regime officials found guilty of abuse.

Egypt’s military leader, meanwhile, pleaded for the Egyptian people to look to the future, help improve internal security and work for a better economy, according to The Associated Press.

It was the first public speech by Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi since his Military Council took power in 85-million-people nation after the ouster of President Mubarak.

Mr. Tantawi spoke at a graduation ceremony for police cadets.

He said internal security and the economy are linked. He spoke against a wave of labor strikes that has rocked the country.

“Let’s leave the past aside, not forget it, but put it aside for now so that we can push forward with the most energy we have,” he said.

Separately, Brigadier Mahmoud Nasr, the deputy defense minister for financial affairs, said the unrest led to an 80 percent decline in revenues from tourism, a vital sector in the North African nation.

The figures revealed by the Supreme Military Council's finance chief offered yet another window into the drubbing sustained by the Arab world’s most populous nation in the wake of the mass protests.

Those protests expanded to include widespread labour strikes that resulted in a sharp reduction in manufacturing and exports even as foreign direct investment and tourism revenues plummeted. With revenue falling and costs mounting, Egypt has reached out to the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund for aid.

Brigadier Nasr, in comments carried by the official MENA news agency, said GDP growth was at around 1 percent to 2 percent compared to pre-unrest forecasts of around 6 percent for the fiscal year ending June 30.

While the mass protests were largely fuelled by a crescendo of frustration at the growing income disparity and soaring prices in a country where about half residents live on or below the World Bank's $2 per day poverty threshold, the continuation of the protests has only served to exacerbate the nation’s economic troubles.

(Abeer Tayel, an editor at Al Arabiya, can be reached at: abeer.tayel@mbc.net)

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