Egypt’s top prosecutor said in a decree issued by the government’s press office that Mubarak, 82, and his sons had been detained for 15 days for questioning about the origins of their family’s riches. The former president would also face questioning about the use of violence to suppress 18 days of protests that drove him from power, the prosecutor said.
Mubarak’s wife, meanwhile, was under investigation for alleged financial improprieties involving the Library of Alexandria and a reading festival, al-Ahram reported.
News of Mubarak’s detention was greeted with a mixture of joy and relief in some quarters here, caution in others. The Egyptian stock exchange rose, and the Coalition of Youth Revolution called off plans for yet another protest march on Cairo’s Tahrir Square after midday prayers Friday.
Some Egyptians voiced skepticism, saying they worried that Mubarak’s case could be handled behind closed doors.
“We want a fair trial for them — and for it to be broadcast on TV to enable all people to see what is really going on there,” said Sameh el-Sayyed, 26, a plumber.
Wednesday’s announcements appeared to signify a turning point in the relationship between Mubarak and the military leadership that has ruled the country since his fall Feb. 11.
“They’re separating themselves from Mubarak to save the stability of their organization,” said Zyad el-Elaimy, an official with the presidential campaign of pro-democracy activist and Nobel Peace laureate Mohamed ElBaradei and a board member of the Coalition of Youth Revolution.
But the most immediate effect of the detentions could be to reset the increasingly tense relationship between the military and the Egyptian people.
The army is generally well regarded here, and soldiers had been hailed as guardians of the revolution when they intervened to halt street battles between Mubarak’s security forces and demonstrators during the 18 days of protest. An often-heard slogan was: “The army and the people are one hand.”
In recent weeks, though, the military had become a target of popular fury, its leaders accused of reneging on promised reforms, detaining government critics for trial by military tribunals and moving too slowly to try Mubarak.
Many in the pro-democracy movement were especially alarmed when the army used force to break up a protest early Saturday that had also involved some mutinous soldiers, triggering the worst bloodshed since Mubarak’s departure.
Members of Egypt’s youthful protest movement took the decision to detain the former president and his family as a sign that the ever-larger demonstrations they have staged since Mubarak’s ouster had worked, a view seconded by some observers.