Egypt's Mubarak interview: 'I quit power to save lives'
Former Egyptian President waves from the dock (File photo: AFP)
Toppled Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said that his decision to step down was his own, adding that he could have remained in power if he had wanted to, in an interview with Egyptian daily Al-Watan published on Wednesday.
Mubarak reportedly made the statements in an interview conducted at the Tora Prison Hospital in Cairo.
“I made the decision to step down myself. No one pressured me. It was possible for me to stay in power but I decided to step down to protect people’s lives and not shed blood,” Mubarak said, according to the paper.
Asked about current political developments in Egypt, Mubarak said: “I am really sad.” He also commented on the Muslim Brotherhood’s rule.
“[The people] chose them," he said, adding that he was unsure whether the Brotherhood would remain in power for long.
American pressure on Egypt
Mubarak aired his views on the U.S.’s role in the Middle East, stating “all what concerns America is guaranteeing Israel’s security.”
He also said that the Americans had continuously pressured Egypt to establish military bases in Egypt and that he always refused.
“[Late defense minister Abdelhalim] Abu Ghazleh came once to me and said the Americans requested to build a base here and I agreed. I told him: You have no authority to approve that and neither do I. You don’t own (Egypt) and neither do I.
“When I later met with the then-U.S. Secretary of Defense during an official visit to the U.S., he told me Abu Ghazleh approved establishing a military base. I told him the Egyptian constitution allows neither Abu Ghazleh nor me to approve that. Such an issue requires the approval of the parliament, and even if the latter approves, a popular referendum is required. I ended the subject there. They have more than once requested establishing bases in West Cairo and Burj al-Arab. They wanted bases at any expense.”
Mubarak also stated that the U.S. had attempted to assert control over Egypt’s communications systems.
“Then they wanted to establish an electronic network for the armed forces. This is of course so Israel and America monitor [the armed forces]. I told the defense minister to make them forget about it. But they returned later wanting to connect all Cairo central terminals with Ramsis’, and they actually agreed on that with the telecommunications minister.”
Mubarak said that he was informed of the American plan by the armed forces and realized that such a plan, if carried out, would allow the U.S. to paralyze all communications in Egypt.
“This means that when work at Ramsi's central terminal stops, all communications in Egypt stop. I summoned the telecommunications minister and told him: ‘So in this case, any phone call made passes through Ramsis central.’ He said the Americans will do this for free.’ I told him: ‘Don't you dare approve that. He said that the Americans had already connected Giza’s central terminal with Ramsi's. So I told him to just obstruct the plan at this point.”
Grandson's death, a turning point
During the interview Mubarak revealed that the death of his grandson, Mohamed Alaa, in 2009 was a turning point in his life.
He further commented on the emotional trauma he says he underwent after his ouster.
“They now want to humiliate me from the hospital to the prison to the court. They think this humiliates me. No. I have seen worse in my life...I simply live now and I am not afraid. God knows it all.”
Mubarak, however, refused to talk about the January 2011 events that led to his ouster saying: “I don’t like to talk about this. It's over now.”
However he did comment on reports that he was advised to sack former commander-in-chief of the armed forces, Mohamed Tantawi, in 2011 to save the regime from collapsing.
“If I had killed him then, people would have made a hero out of him. They would have said that I requested he opens fire on protesters and that he said no so I killed him.”
Al-Watan has split the interview into a two-part series, with the second section to be published on Thursday.
Another interview with Mubarak
In May, al-Watan said one of its reporters had interviewed Mubarak.
The interview was billed as Mubarak’s first comments to the media since he was detained after his removal from power in 2011. However, Farid el-Deeb, Mubarak’s lawyer, accused the reporter - Mohamed al-Sheikh - of fabricating the whole thing.
El-Deeb said that the pictures of al-Sheikh sitting on a hospital bed allegedly in Mubarak’s private jet did not prove that the journalist had met with Mubarak.
In comments to Al Arabiya, Sheikh fired back at Deeb.
“The interview is real,” al-Sheikh said.
Al-Watan said that the journalist sat with the former president in a side room at a court in which his retrial for protester killings was taking place.
“Mubarak was sitting on a chair and did not look ill,” Sheikh told Al Arabiya, adding that there were security guards in the room.
In the alleged interview in May, Mubarak said he was concerned about Egypt’s poor, saying: “This is the secret of my sadness: to see the poor in this condition.”
He also purportedly said he was worried by the prospect of Egypt concluding an agreement with the International Monetary Fund on a $4.8 billion loan to aid the country’s deteriorating economy.
In his comments, Mubarak also said it was too early to judge the performance of Egypt’s Islamist President Mohamed Morsi.
“[Morsi] is a new president who is carrying out weighty missions for the first time, and we shouldn’t judge him now,” Mubarak said.