Mubarak Goes From President to Prisoner

Cairo - Having held onto power for nearly 30 years before a popular revolt deposed him, Hosny Mubarak Saturday became Egypt's first ruler to be convicted and sent to prison - a life sentence for complicity in the deaths of some 846 protesters.

Mubarak, wearing dark glasses and lying on a stretcher inside an iron cage, showed no emotion as the judge read out the verdict.

That was a marked contrast with the scenes of jubilation - and scuffles with pro-Mubarak supporters - outside the court.

Since the trial began on August 3, it has riveted attention across Egypt and the world.

Mubarak, often called the "Last Pharoah", is the first ruler in Egypt's history to be brought to justice. But he hardly spoke during the trial.

Mubarak, 84, was usually wheeled into the cage on a stretcher - a scene that his critics claimed was meant to elicit sympathy for the octogenarian defendant.

During his rule, which began in 1981, Mubarak survived six assassination attempts and saw wars raging at Egypt's doorstep. As president, he cast himself as a strongman.

Many Egyptians were not yet born when Islamist militants killed his predecessor, Anwar al-Sadat, in October 1981.

Mubarak, then vice president, was metres away from al-Sadat during the attack at a military parade, and was shot in the hand. He was sworn in as president eight days later on October 14, 1981.

Emergency rule, which gave state authorities sweeping powers of arrest, was invoked.

Mubarak renewed it repeatedly, using the broad powers it bestowed to detain thousands of opponents.

Those notorious emergency laws only ended on Thursday, after 31 years in force.

Mubarak was born in a small village in the Nile Delta province of al-Menoufiya on May 4, 1928. He is married to Suzanne, and the couple have two sons - Gamal (who was being groomed to take over the presidency), and Alaa.

His biographers say Mubarak stood out because of his seriousness. But he was also a skillful footballer before he joined the army.

Mubarak distinguished himself as a fighter pilot, and quickly rose through the military to become chief of staff of the Egyptian Air Force and deputy defence minister in 1969, then vice president in 1975.

His biographers say he rose by virtue of his hard work and his apparent lack of political ambition.

Throughout his presidency, Mubarak's rule had been defined by an overt dedication stability, and peace with Israel - often at the cost of domestic support.

When Israeli soldiers used lethal force to put an end to the Palestinian uprising on Egypt's border in 2000, many on the streets of Egypt clamoured for retaliation.

"Mr President," a young interviewer on state television cautiously asked him at the time, "some people are saying Egypt should go to war ... "

Mubarak cut him off. "How old are you?" he asked. The presenter, reddening, said he was not yet 35.

"You were still soiling your diapers when we liberated Sinai," Mubarak retorted, with characteristic bluntness. "What do you know of war?"

His commitment to stability defined his policies during the 1991 Gulf War, the Palestinian uprising of 2000, the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq, Israel's 2006 war in Lebanon and Israel's bombardment of the Gaza Strip in January 2009.

In each crisis, protesters took to the streets, and Egypt's foreign policy came in for criticism at home and in the region.

But Mubarak held to the course Sadat had set by signing a peace treaty with Israel in 1979 and aligning Egypt with the United States in the last years of the Cold War.

Under his presidency, the economy grew. However, much of the new wealth pouring into Egypt did not trickle down to the population, 40 per cent of whom still live on two dollars or less a day.

Mubarak inherited a political system that left little room for dissent. He also inherited an uneasy relationship with the Arab world's oldest Islamist group, the Muslim Brotherhood.

Throughout Mubarak's rule, his government often cracked down on the group, banned in Egypt since 1954.

In a complete reversal of fortunes, the Muslim Brotherhood has led the rise of Islamists in Egypt since Mubarak's fall from power. It controls the two houses of the parliament.

And the group's candidate, Mohammed Morsi, detained under Mubarak, is vying to be his successor in presidential run-offs due to take place on June 16-17.

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