Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat –Asharq Al-Awsat met with Hosni Mubarak’s attorney, Farid al-Deeb, in his office in Cairo’s affluent Zamalek neighbourhood to discuss the greatest legal case in modern Egyptian history, namely the case being mounted against former President Hosni Mubarak. Al-Deeb, sitting in front of a mountain of legal papers and documents, and casually smoking a Cuban cigar, stressed his belief in the former Egyptian president’s innocence. In an exclusive interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, Farid al-Deeb talks about the former president’s legal defence against allegations of corruption and ordering the deaths of protestors, in addition to Mubarak’s health, and the Egyptian revolution.
The following is the text of the interview:
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Can you tell us how you came to represent former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak?
[al-Deeb] I received a telephone call from a member of the Mubarak family on 11 April . He told me “the President wants to see you.” I immediately travelled to Sharm el-Sheikh and met with him [Mubarak]. I learnt that he was to face questioning the next morning, and I attended this session after he officially authorized me to legally represent him.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Can you tell us your first impression after meeting the newly-resigned former President Mubarak?
[al-Deeb] I noticed his extraordinary sincerity, and I believe that my experience as a lawyer over a number of years has allowed me to be a good judge of character. In addition to this, Mubarak is clearly a very kind man of good intentions, to the point that I was somewhat taken aback by this.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] What are the major charges being brought against Mubarak?
[al-Deeb] There are three main charges issued against Mubarak in the indictment, although I am [also] defending the correctness of Mubarak’s position. This is something that I carefully reviewed, and it is Mubarak’s right to defend his position and I am prepared to dispute this with anybody who launches arbitrary accusations against him.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] In a previous television interview, you made the claim that Hosni Mubarak upheld the revolution. How so?
[al-Deeb] The youth never demanded Mubarak step down from power, rather they were only demanding political and economic reforms. It was their right [to make such demands], and Mubarak himself supported this as part of supporting the demands of the revolution’s youth. This is what he said during his first speech, when he announced that the youth had the right to protest and make demands. He then reacted to these demands by firing his cabinet and suspending Egypt’s parliament and Shura Council until the Egyptian High Court could issue its final decision (with regards to the allegations of MPs winning seats by means of vote rigging). Mubarak responded to the demands of the revolution within the limits of the constitution, seeking to protect the state, its constitution, and institutions.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Has Mubarak ever told you what he believes to be the major factors or reasons behind the Egyptian revolution?
[al-Deeb] There can be no doubt that one of the sparks that caused major problems and which led to the revolution were the 2010 election results. These [results] were truly unfortunate, not to mention the rumours being spread amongst the people that Mubarak was seeking to bequeath power to [his son] Gamal Mubarak.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] However we have been hearing rumours that Mubarak wanted to bequeath power to his son for years. Are you saying that this is untrue and that former President Mubarak was not seeking to bequeath power to Gamal Mubarak?
[al-Deeb] This was nothing more than rumours circulated by those around Mubarak and Gamal for their own interests. There is no need to mention the name of those who were responsible for this here, but history will one day bear witness to their actions.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] However public opinion viewed Mubarak’s statement rejecting the issue of bequeathing power to his son Gamal Mubarak as being vague and unconvincing. What is your opinion on this issue?
[al-Deeb] The former President told me that he never wanted his son Gamal Mubarak to succeed him as President of Egypt…and that Gamal Mubarak himself never once thought of this.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Do you think that Hosni Mubarak was aware of what was happening in Tahrir Square during the revolution, particularly the harsh stance adopted by the Interior Ministry and former Interior Minister Habib el-Adly?
[al-Deeb] He was aware of everything that was happening. El-Adly differed with Mubarak on Friday 28 January [with regards to how to handle the situation]. El-Adly told the president that foreign elements within Tahrir Square had stolen weapons from police stations and that the police had no choice but to flee because your [Mubarak’s] orders was that the police forces in Tahrir Square should not be armed. El-Adly told the president that this situation was the result of his orders, and that he was responsible for this.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] You have made reference to the presence of “foreign elements” amongst the protestors. What evidence do you have for this claim?
[al-Deeb] According to a prominent eye-witness, elements from Hezbollah infiltrated Egypt during the beginning of the revolution and coordinated with elements from the Muslim Brotherhood, systematically setting fire and destroying police stations, in addition to infiltrating prisons and releasing Hezbollah prisoners arrested in Egypt. We later saw these escaped Hezbollah prisoners on our television screens speaking from Gaza and Lebanon. In addition to this, they released many extremely dangerous criminals serving prison sentences; indeed 30,000 prisoners escaped and went on to spread chaos and panic.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Who is this “prominent eye-witness”? What else did he claim to have seen?
[al-Deeb] This is none other than Major General Omar Suleiman, former Egyptian Vice President and Intelligence chief. According to his testimony, a number of elements received training and cooperated with foreign elements who had previously infiltrated Egypt. Suleiman claimed that these “foreign elements” rode the wave of the revolution and distorted it, as this revolution – when it first broke out – was innocent and peaceful. The proof of this is that for the first three days of the revolution – until 28 January 2011 – there were no deaths, or clashes between the security forces and the youths.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Where did these elements receive their training?
[al-Deeb] The US and Serbia
[Asharq Al-Awsat] How do you justify the high death toll during the revolution, with estimates indicating that approximately 850 Egyptian citizens were killed?
[al-Deeb] [Former Egyptian Interior Minister] Habib el-Adly told investigators that if he had ordered police to fire on demonstrators in Tahrir Square on Friday 28 January – when there was an approximate three million Egyptians demonstrating – then this would mean…between 200,000 – 300,000 demonstrators would have been killed.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Are you saying that neither Hosni Mubarak nor Habib el-Adly ordered the police to fire on demonstrators?
[al-Deeb] El-Adly did not order a single live bullet to be fired on the demonstrators, and he only ordered the use of tear gas, which is used by security forces across the world to put down riots. He also asked the president to order the army to intervene after the police forces could not deal with the situation having not been authorized to use arms. Security Forces commander Major General Ahmed Ramzi banned his forces from using or carrying weapons in Tahrir Square. The former Interior Minister [Habib el-Adly] did not go beyond his purview. He tried to quell the protesters peacefully, and in the early days of the revolution, people were in fact leaving Tahrir Square in peace. However, unfortunately, foreign elements infiltrated the demonstrations on Friday 28 January [Friday of Rage]…which resulted in the revolution of the youth being hijacked. Evidence of this can be seen in police being fired upon and killed by the same weapons that were also being used against the youth in Tahrir Square…and some of these were weapons that are unavailable in Egypt.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] What about the accusation that El-Adly is leading a so-called “counter-revolution” during this transitional phase following the collapse of the Mubarak regime?
[al-Deeb] Such claims are completely false. This man has now been stripped of all power, he is in prison, and has lost all his authority…so how can he manage to do this? What is happening to el-Adly is an act of political score-settling by certain political forces that he long opposed.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] What is Mubarak’s true personal wealth, particularly as some media reports have estimated this as being in the billions of dollars?
[al-Deeb] I challenge anyone in Egypt or the world to bring me a single document proving that Hosni Mubarak possesses a single dollar or any property outside of Egypt. Everything that Mubarak possesses was revealed in his financial statement [submitted to the Egyptian judiciary], namely six million Egyptian pounds (a little less than $1 million) held at the Heliopolis branch of the National Bank of Egypt. This is his savings over 62-years in service to the Egyptian state, in addition to a private villa in Sharm el-Sheikh, whose value has yet to be decided by the court.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Do you believe that the arrest of Hussein Salem, one of Mubarak’s closest aides, on charges of money laundering, may change the course of events in the case against Mubarak?
[al-Deeb] Of course, the arrest of Hussein Salem will be of great assistance to me, because investigations with him will reveal the truth behind all that has been said about his financial accountability, and all the false allegations against Mubarak will be revealed. Therefore, I was glad to hear that Salem had been arrested.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Is Mubarak answering all the investigators questions, or is he declining to reveal certain details?
[al-Deeb] Yes, he is specifically declining to give details regarding national security and military institutions. He often answers saying “I will reveal no more [on this issue] in order to protect Egyptian national security. My duty dictates that I do not reveal more on this issue, and I would prefer to be executed rather than place Egyptian national security at risk” even though his answer might clear his name. He told me “I have always risked my life [for my country], and I fought in the 1956 war, the 1967 war, and the 1973 war, so why should I fear and seek to escape death today by revealing information that would place Egyptian security in jeopardy?”
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Does Mubarak believe that the people of Egypt have mistreated him in deposing him in this manner, after more than 30 years in power?
[al-Deeb] Yes, for he is a man who loves Egypt and its people, and during his rule he sought to improve the living standards of the Egyptian people. Statistics reveal that Egypt is more advanced than many countries, for instance Egypt’s budget deficit is less than that of the US [in terms of GDP], according to the Economist magazine. Mubarak also ensured that the people of Egypt were never subject to a war with Israel. Mubarak did hundreds of thousands of good things for Egypt and the people of Egypt. At the very least, he did not act as other Arab leaders did, either fleeing the country or declaring a civil against his own people. If he was truly guilty, wouldn’t it have been easier for him to flee the country with his family [rather than stay and face trial]?
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Has Hosni Mubarak ever cried in your presence?
[al-Deeb] Yes, he has cried a lot. During questioning, he cried on more than one occasion, and this can be seen in the official documents. He never imagined that he would end up in this position after serving Egypt for all his life.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] How is the former president’s health?
[al-Deeb] His medical reports show that he is in extremely bad health. The latest medical report, issued on 25 May 2011, showed that he was unable to walk beyond a few paces, and that he must remain in hospital for treatment. Removing him from hospital would place his life in danger. I summoned the German physician who had carried out surgery on him on 6 March 2010 – when President Mubarak had cancer – to observe his health condition, and he described the former president’s health as being grave, requiring check-ups every three months. Mubarak’s cancer had [previously] spread to his small intestines, gallbladder, and pancreas and he requires check-ups every three months in this regard.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Have you received threats on your life for defending Mubarak?
[al-Deeb] No, I walk the streets in peace and safety, and am welcomed everywhere.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Are you not afraid of being targeted for “working against the revolution?”
[al-Deeb] Firstly, I am a lawyer, and so this is my duty. It is like being a fighter whose duty is to fight, not withdraw from the battlefield or abandon his responsibility for whatever the justification. My job is to [legally] defend my clients, provided that I am convinced of their position. My mission is then to convince the court…I am not concerned about what people say about me. Secondly, I personally like and respect Hosni Mubarak…he has an honourable history of service that is known to everybody.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] You have also stated that former Egyptian First Lady Suzanne Mubarak has been mistreated, in what manner?
[al-Deeb] Yes, she has been mistreated…no charges have been filed against her, and there is not a single document or witness implicating her [yet still she is subject to accusations].
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Has she really suffered a nervous breakdown?
[al-Deeb] Yes, these recent experiences were something that she found extremely difficult to handle, particularly considering that she is over 73 years old.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] When did you last visit Gamal and Alaa Mubarak in prison? What is their condition?
[al-Deeb] This was a few days ago, specifically during the time when rumour were abounding that Gamal Mubarak was seen outside of prison in a black car on 15 May Bridge [in Cairo]. As for Gamal and Alaa’s psychological conditions, they submit their will to God Almighty…yet what most concerns them is their father’s health.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Did you ever raise the issue of Mubarak seeking to bequeath power to Gamal Mubarak?
[al-Deeb] Yes, he stressed to me that he never wanted to rule Egypt.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Who else visits your clients in prison?
[al-Deeb] Mubarak is only visited by his two daughters-in-law, whilst his wife Suzanne is always beside him.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Finally, are you 100 percent certain that your clients, namely Hosni Mubarak, and his two sons Alaa and Gamal Mubarak, are innocent?
[al-Deeb] Yes, I believe and am convinced of their innocence, and am hopeful of proving this [in court].