Hosni Mubarak was an Egyptian politician and former military officer who served as the fourth President of Egypt from 1981 to 2011.
Muhammad Hosni Sayyid Mubarak (born May 4, 1928) was raised in Kafr-al Meselha as the son of an inspector of the Ministry of Justice. Mubarak was educated at Egypt’s national Military Academy and Air Force Academy and later at the Frunze General Staff Academy in Moscow.
Under Egyptian president Anwar al-Sadat, Mubarak served in a number of military posts, including deputy minister of war from 1972 to 1975; in 1975, he became vice president. After Sadat was assassinated, on October 6, 1981, Mubarak became president. He instituted a vigorous economic recovery program; remained committed to the peace treaty with Israel (signed in 1979); mended relations with other Arab states, which were damaged after Egypt’s peace with Israel; and initiated a policy he called “positive neutrality” toward the great powers.
He was reelected when his National Democratic Party won the October 1987 elections and was thus able to nominate him as the sole candidate for president. With serious economic problems and rising Islamic fundamental opposition at home, Mubarak continued to seek an end to the stalemate that had developed between Israel and Arab nations; in 1988 he visited the United States for talks on that subject.
Mubarak, supported the 1990 United Nations (UN) sanctions against Iraq when that country invaded Kuwait, orchestrated Arab League opposition to the invasion, committed about 38,500 troops to the anti-Iraq coalition in the Persian Gulf War (1991), and supported postwar efforts to achieve peace in the Middle East.
Reelected in 1993, Mubarak cracked down on Muslim fundamentalist opposition groups after an upsurge in guerrilla violence by Islamic extremists. Mubarak survived an assassination attempt unharmed in June 1995 in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa. Five of the assailants were killed during or after the ambush and three escaped to Sudan, which is widely believed to have sponsored the attack. In November 1995, just before parliamentary elections, Mubarak’s government accused the Muslim Brotherhood of helping violent Islamic groups. Many of the Muslim Brotherhood’s members were arrested, and several who planned to run in the elections or monitor them were tried and sentenced to prison. Critics accused the government of trying to eliminate even peaceful opponents. In the elections that followed, Mubarak’s National Democratic Party won an overwhelming victory. Mubarak was elected to a fourth six-year term in 1999.
Mubarak was elected to his fifth consecutive term as president in September 2005. The election was the first contested presidential election in Egypt’s history, with official results showing Mubarak won 88.6% of the votes cast, however civil organizations observing the elections and the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights reported mass rigging activities, bought votes and fraud. Ayman Nour, a candidate for the Al-Ghad (Tomorrow) party, contested the election results on September 8, 2005. In a move widely seen as political persecution, Nour was convicted of forgery and sentenced to five years at hard labor on December 24, 2005.
On January 25, 2011, Egyptian protesters began staging largescale demonstrations throughout the country calling for Mubarak’s resignation. The ‘Arab Spring’ sought to remove dictators across the Middle East and the demonstrators in Cairo’s Tahrir Square quickly gained international attention. Though aggresive actions by the protesters were rare at the start, violence in the streets quickly escalated between Mubarak supporters and the opposition following his announcement on February 1 that though he would not resign from the presidency but also would not seek another term in the elections scheduled for September 2011.
After this announcement the protests gained more steam and on February 10 Mubarak announced he would step down and hand over powers to his vice-president, Omar Suleiman, but would remain as president. The following day, Suleiman announced Mubarak’s official ‘resignation’ and that the military’s supreme council would run the country.
On May 24, 2011, Mubarak was ordered to stand trial in Cairo on charges of premeditated murder of protestors during the January revolution. The proceedings against Mubarak, his sons Ala’a and Gamal, former interior minister Habib al-Adli, and six top police officials — who had directly commanded security forces during the uprising — began on August 3 with the steepest crime of premeditated murder bearing the possibility of a death sentence. The trial was broadcast through Egyptian television and Mubarak made an appearance when he was brought into the prisoners cage on a hospital bed. He pled not guilty to all the charges levied against him.
On June 1, 2012, presiding judge Ahmed Refaat sentenced Mubarak and Interior Minister al-Adli to life imprisonment on the charge of killing demonstrators during the revolution. In his indictment, Judge Refaat said that Mubarak ruled for thirty years “without a conscience and with a cold heart,” subjecting his people to poverty, shanty towns and dirty drinking water. He said Mubarak allowed Egypt, once the “beacon” of the world, to collapse into “one of the most deteriorated, backward countries.”
Though the life sentence against the former president marked an unprecedented milestone in the Egyptian march towards democratic rule, the euphoria of the decision was short-lived after Refaat handed down the other sentences. The murder charges against the six senior police officials were dismissed. In addition, Mubarak and his sons, Alaa and Gamal, were found not guilty of corruption charges.
The state news agency MENA reported that Mubarak suffered a “health crisis” after the court session and was treated by doctors on the flight to the prison. Egyptian news reports said he wept and resisted leaving the helicopter.
On August 20, 2013, an Egyptian court ordered Mubarak’s release, stating that there were no more legal grounds for his detention. A day later, interim prime minister Hazem el-Beblawi ordered that Mubarak be put under house arrest.
In September 2013 shamed Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak claimed that he personally started the Yom Kippur War during a secret mission during his time as an Egyptian air force commander. Mubarak stated that six munites before the large attack on Israel commenced including other Arab armies, he attacked an Israeli communications outpost in his fighter jet in the first attack of the war.
Mubarak was freed from detention on March 24, 2016, after a stay at the Maadi Military Hospital in southern Cairo.
In 2019, Mubarak appeared in a video, the “Mubarak Archives,” reminiscing about the 1973 Arab-Israeli War. According to Egypt Today, “Mubarak said that youth must know the role the generation that witnessed the October War played to erase the agony of defeat and restore confidence in the Egyptian Armed Forces.”
Mubarak died on February 25, 2020, at the age of 91.
Photo: File reprinted with permission from Presidenza della Repubblica.