CAIRO —Former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak addressed the nation Sunday for the first time since a popular revolution forced him from office two months ago, defending himself and his family against accusations of corruption.
Mubarak, who was driven from office Feb. 11, after weeks of anti-government demonstrations, denied that he had looted the country or sheltered an illicit fortune in foreign bank accounts or real estate. He dismissed such accusations as “lies.”
He also promised to cooperate with prosecutors investigating the origins of his extensive wealth. He said that he had only one bank account in Egypt and that neither his wife, Suzanne, nor his two sons — Alaa and Gamal — had profited illicitly from their positions of power.
Mubarak, at times sounding like a wounded parent addressing his ungrateful children, also cast his resignation as an act of patriotism.
“I chose to abdicate my position as president, placing the interest of the nation above all, and walked away from political life, wishing all prosperity to the people of Egypt,” he said in the televised address.
The former president did not appear on camera; he also seemed to be reading from a prepared statement. But his tone during the recorded address sounded as if nothing had changed. The man who had ruled 80 million people for nearly 30 years sounded healthy and almost indignant at the turnabout of his fate.
Concluding on a defiant note, Mubarak promised to take legal action, if necessary, to defend himself against slander.
“I will uphold all my legal rights to defend my reputation as well as that of my family, both at home and abroad,” he said.
After the speech, the country’s top law enforcement official announced that Mubarak and his sons had been summoned for questioning about allegations that they converted public funds to their personal use. Prosecutor General Abdel Meguid Mahmoud also said that former prime minister Ahmed Nazif had been detained as part of an investigation into similar corruption charges.
Although a few Egyptians give Mubarak, 82, grudging credit for departing before the violent clashes between authorities and protesters became even deadlier — as in Libya, Syria and Yemen — much of the world’s largest Arab nation is still seething over the corruption and repression that marked nearly three decades of Mubarak’s authoritarian rule.
Many Egyptians are also rankled that Mubarak and his family remain behind heavy guard at the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh. Almost daily, Egyptian officials deny reports and rumors that Mubarak has fled the country or become very ill.
The Washington Post reported Sunday that Mahmoud, who is Egypt’s top prosecutor, has notified the United States and other foreign governments that the Mubarak family may have hidden hundreds of billions of dollars worth of cash, gold and other state-owned valuables.
Mahmoud wrote in a document obtained by The Post that Mubarak and his sons may have violated laws prohibiting the “seizing of public funds and profiteering and abuse of power.” The document said the Mubaraks used complex business schemes to divert the assets to offshore companies and personal accounts.
Mubarak’s speech was carried on al-Arabiya TV Sunday afternoon as calm returned a day after the bloodiest crackdown by the military leadership that has run the country since his ouster.
Hundreds of troops, firing into the air and attacking protesters with electric batons, swarmed the center of Tahrir Square in the pre-dawn hours Saturday to expel several hundred people who had defied a 2 a.m. curfew after a large but peaceful protest Friday. At least one person was killed. The confrontation came after weeks of rising tensions between the pro-democracy movement and the military leadership.
On Sunday, thousands of people milled in Tahrir Square, which was still ringed by barbed-wire barricades. Army units were stationed near the Egyptian Antiquities Museum beside the square.
Special correspondent Sherine Bayoumi contributed to this report.