Egyptians shout anti- Mubarak slogans during a demonstration at Tahrir… (Amr Nabil / Associated Press )
Reporting from Cairo —
In his first public speech since he was forced from power two months ago, former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said Sunday that he and his family were victims of a campaign by political enemies seeking to tarnish their reputation by exaggerating their wealth with false charges of corruption.
The pre-recorded audio address came the same day the Egyptian prosecutor general's office announced that Mubarak and sons Gamal — who many believed would have been his successor — and Alaa were summoned for questioning regarding the violence that left about 300 people dead during the revolt that toppled the regime on Feb. 11.
The legal move appeared to be an attempt by the country's ruling military council to appease protesters who have criticized the army for not moving swiftly enough to indict Mubarak and his inner circle. The ailing former leader, 82, has been under house arrest in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el Sheik. His financial assets have been frozen, and he and his family are forbidden to leave the country.
"I can't remain silent toward the campaigns of falsehood, slander and defamation and the continuous attempts to ruin my and my family's reputation and integrity," Mubarak said in the six-minute recording, which aired on the pan-Arab news channel Al Arabiya. He added that his critics were "questioning my integrity, stances and military and political history, through which I have striven for the sake of Egypt and its sons in war and peace."
The address and the prosecutor general's announcement were the latest in a dramatic reversal of political fortune for a man who had ruled Egypt for three decades. Mubarak's words echoed through a nation struggling to form a new democracy and move beyond the repression and corruption that defined an era in one of the region's most dominant countries.
Mubarak claimed that neither he nor any member of his family had foreign bank accounts. He said he would assist Abdel Meguid Mahmoud, the prosecutor general, in an investigation into the family's alleged financial holdings and properties around the world. Gamal Mubarak, one of the architects of the nation's economic reform, has long been accused of enriching himself at the public's expense through his connections to ruling-party insiders and international brokers.
Hosni Mubarak said he wanted to disclose his assets "so that Egyptians would be assured that their former president only possesses bank accounts inside Egypt and in one of the Egyptian banks according to the financial disclosure I've submitted." He concluded his speech by saying that he retained "the legal rights to sue those who intended undermining [my] reputation."
A statement by the prosecutor general's office said Mubarak's speech would "not affect the investigation or the charges against him related to freezing his accounts or the travel ban against him and his family. This morning the prosecutor general sent a request to Mubarak and his sons to come for questioning, and the results will be announced in the coming days."
Mubarak's speech came after tens of thousands of protesters gathered in Tahrir Square on Friday, calling on the military council to speed up indictments against the former president and his aides, who are accused of corruption and misuse of power and violence during the 18-day revolution. About 1,000 protesters remained camped in the square, even after a raid by the army Saturday that left one protester dead and 71 injured.
Hassan is a news assistant in The Times' Cairo bureau.