CAIRO, April 10, 2011 (AFP) – Egypt’s former leader Hosni Mubarak complained he has been the victim of a smear campaign, in his first comments aired Sunday since he was ousted in February by a popular uprising. The former strongman’s statement was broadcast on the pan-Arab news network Al-Arabiya as pressure mounted on the ruling military to put him on trial for alleged corruption and other crimes. Mubarak, who has been under house arrest since resigning on February 11, said he was prepared to assist any investigations into his family’s alleged assets abroad. He said that both he and his family were the victims of “unjust campaigns and false claims that seek to ruin my reputation and challenge my integrity and my… military and political history.”
Mubarak said he was prepared to assist the “public prosecutor to ask the foreign ministry of Egypt to communicate with all foreign ministries in the world asking them to reveal our assets abroad.” The 82-year-old, who has been based in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh since his ouster, criticised the media for reporting that he had “large properties” abroad, and denied he had foreign bank accounts. “I reserve my legal rights toward whoever tried to ruin me and my family’s reputation,” he said in the audio message broadcast on Al-Arabiya. The military has announced the appointment of a panel to investigate the former president, but it has been criticised for delays in holding him and other former regime officials accountable. Mubarak’s younger son Gamal, once widely seen as his anointed heir, faces questioning by a corruption panel that has already remanded the former president’s chief of staff. Mubarak, his wife Suzanne and their two sons Alaa and Gamal and their wives have been banned from travelling abroad and had their assets frozen.
The first member of Mubarak’s regime to face trial was much reviled former interior minister Habib al-Adly, whose security forces had wide powers of arrest under the emergency law. Meanwhile, more than 1,000 Egyptians protested in Cairo’s Tahrir Square on Sunday after an overnight sit-in when the army backed down on a threat to disperse them. The protesters, who blocked the square with a charred army truck, barbed wire and beams, chanted slogans against military chief Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, who has been in charge since Mubarak’s February ouster. “The people demand the toppling of the field marshal,” they chanted, after spending a nervous night waiting for the army to follow through with its threat to enforce a three-hour pre-dawn curfew.
Soldiers, backed by riot police, had dispersed an overnight protest in the iconic square before dawn on Saturday, with one protester shot dead. The military later warned it would clear out remaining protesters, keeping the demonstrators on edge throughout the night as the curfew countdown began. Groups of young men whistled and banged at the barricades when they thought the military, which stayed out of sight, was approaching. As the curfew neared its end, some protesters began to chant jokingly: “Hit us, hit us, you are taking your time and we’re bored.” Their numbers waxed and waned throughout the morning, with groups of protesters locked in arguments with passers-by who wanted them to leave the square, which remained closed to traffic. By the afternoon there were more than 1,000 of them. Groups of protesters would rush to the barricades when their sentries yelled that “thugs” had been sighted. There was no noticeable security presence.
The protesters faced mounting criticism from other groups that took part in the revolt that toppled Mubarak, however. The Muslim Brotherhood, the best organised opposition movement, had from the start described protesters against the military as feckless “zealots.” “The Muslim Brotherhood condemns any attempt to weaken (the military’s relationship with the people), and especially attempts to cause any split between the military and the people or to pit them against each other,” it said. State television and newspapers played up criticism by other opposition figures. But a youth group that spearheaded the protests, the Coalition of Youth of the January 25 Revolution, said it had suspended dealings with the military.
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