Egypt held a military funeral in Cairo on Wednesday to bury its former president Hosni Mubarak, who ruled for 30 years until he was ousted in a 2011 popular uprising against corruption.
Horses drew Mubarak’s coffin draped in the Egyptian flag in a mosque complex, followed by a procession led by President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi, the senior Egyptian military officer, the sons of Mubarak, Alaa and Gamal, and other Egyptian and Arab dignitaries.
Mubarak died Tuesday in the ICU weeks after undergoing surgery, leaving the Egyptians divided over his legacy, presiding over an era of stagnation and repression, which some nonetheless consider more stable than the chaos that followed.
He was removed from power as an early victim of the “Arab Spring” revolutions that swept the region in 2011. He spent most of the following years in prison and in military hospitals before being released in 2017.
The Egyptian presidency and the armed forces have mourned the former air force officer as a hero for his role in the Arab-Israeli war of 1973. The presidency declared three days of national mourning.
Mubarak’s coffin was to be flown from the Field Marshall Tantawi Mosque to the family’s burial sites, national television reported.
Dozens of Mubarak supporters, including some from his home village, Kafr al-Meselha, in the Nile Delta, gathered outside the mosque, where the military funeral will take place.
“I am glad that his pride was restored” after his removal “and for the appreciation of the state after his death,” said Zeenat Touhami, a 35-year-old woman from Cairo. “This is the story of 30 years, the farewell of 30 years”.
Human rights activist Mohamed Zaree said the current era of autocracy and economic hardship was worse than that of Mubarak.
President Sissi, who came to power after spearheading the overthrow of Mubarak’s Islamist successor, Mohamed Mursi, has overseen a massive crackdown on dissent, which rights groups say is the most serious in recent memory. .
“The era of Mubarak was painful (but) this time is much more difficult and painful in terms of freedoms and economic conditions,” said Zaree.
Many activists who helped organize mass protests that ousted Mubarak are now behind bars or living in exile abroad. Supporters of Sissi say that repression was necessary to stabilize the country after the turmoil that followed 2011.
Mubarak was sentenced to life imprisonment for conspiring to assassinate 239 protesters during the 18-day revolt in 2011, but was released in 2017 after being acquitted of these charges.
He was also convicted in 2015 with his two sons for embezzling public funds to improve family properties. They were sentenced to three years in prison.
Egyptian public and private newspapers broadcast images of the front page of Mubarak, while national television broadcast extracts from previous speeches.
It was a stark contrast to the treatment of his successor, Mursi, the freely elected first Egyptian leader, who lasted only a year in power before the army overthrew him. Mursi died last year after collapsing in court while on trial for spying. The tightly controlled Egyptian media paid little attention to his death.