Egypt’s Mubarak Talks for First Time Since Detention

CAIRO (Reuters) -
Tourists visit the historical site of the Giza Pyramids, near Cairo, Egypt. The 2011 uprising that toppled Egypt’s longtime autocratic ruler, Hosni Mubarak, dealt a blow to foreign investment and tourism, a main revenue source. Neither has recovered, with investors and tourists still scared away by unrest and political turmoil. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)
Tourists visit the historical site of the Giza Pyramids, near Cairo, Egypt. The 2011 uprising that toppled Egypt’s longtime autocratic ruler, Hosni Mubarak, dealt a blow to foreign investment and tourism, a main revenue source. Neither has recovered, with investors and tourists still scared away by unrest and political turmoil. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

In his first comments to the media since he was detained more than two years ago, Egypt’s ousted leader Hosni Mubarak said he is dismayed at the country’s state of affairs and particularly the plight of the poor.

The 85-year old Mubarak said in remarks published Sunday in Al-Watan newspaper that it is also too early to judge his elected successor, Islamist President Mohammed Morsi, because he has a heavy burden to deal with. He also warned against a much-negotiated loan from the International Monetary Fund, saying it would make life harder for the poor in Egypt, where over 40 percent of the population lives on less than $2 a day.

The authenticity of the interview could not be immediately verified. Calls by The Associated Press to Mubarak’s lawyer Farid El Deeb went unanswered, but he was quoted as telling Ahram Online, the electronic version of the state-owned Al-Ahram, that the interview was a “fabrication.”

Al-Watan’s reporter, Mohammed el-Sheik, took photos of himself near and inside Mubarak’s medical helicopter, without the ex-leader inside. El-Sheik said he conducted the interview after sneaking into a waiting area where Mubarak was held during his trial Saturday, apparently before the hearing began.

He also told a private media station Sunday that he couldn’t record the interview because he had to avoid Mubarak’s tight security.

Mubarak has been a longtime nemesis of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist group from which Morsi hails. In his comments to the privately owned Egyptian paper published Sunday, Mubarak appeared to be gloating, painting a picture of a nation that has unraveled following his 2011 ouster and portraying himself as a protector of the poor.

Mubarak stepped down in February 2011 in the face of a wave of popular protests whose main slogan was “Bread, Freedom and Social Justice.” Protesters accused Mubarak of fostering a culture where power was centralized and police acted with impunity. They also believed Mubarak was grooming one of his sons to succeed him.

Mubarak’s comments to Al-Watan also appeared to be addressing a growing segment of the population which has grown nostalgic for Mubarak’s days amid continuing turmoil in the two years since his ouster. The country has been plagued by tenuous security and an enduring standoff between Morsi’s Brotherhood and its Islamist allies and the largely secular opposition, which launched the 2011 revolt but failed to make political gains since.

Mubarak told the newspaper reporter he was “very, very sad” for impoverished Egyptians. He said he was also dismayed by the state of the economy, the industrial cities built during his nearly 30 years in office, and the country’s lack of security.

Mubarak was detained two years ago and put on trial. He has since been hospitalized, sentenced to life in prison, had his sentence overturned