Egyptian Prosecutors Order 15-Day Detention of Hosni Mubarak

Cairo – Egyptian prosecutors said on Wednesday they had detained the former president, Hosni Mubarak, and his two sons for 15 days to face questioning about corruption and abuse of power, just hours after he was abruptly hospitalized in the beach resort of Sharm el Sheik.

The state-run daily newspaper Al Ahram said Mr. Mubarak, forced out of office by the revolution here on Feb. 11, was taken ill after prosecutors had begun questioning him about the accusations.

His detention was announced on state television and on a Facebook page set up by the Egyptian prosecutor general’s office, which also ordered that his sons be detained for 15 days for an investigation into allegations of corruption and abuse of authority.

“The public prosecutor has ordered the detention of former president Mohamed Hosni Mubarak and his two sons Alaa and Gamal Mubarak for 15 days pending investigation after the public prosecutor presented them with the current state of its ongoing investigation of charges and submitted the detention decision to the relevant police authority,” the Facebook posting said.

The Facebook page was set up to promote communication between the authorities and the families of those killed and injured during the 18 days of protest and turmoil that led to Mr. Mubarak’s ouster as a clamor for reform in the Arab world spread from Tunisia to Egypt. The protests have since spread to Yemen, Bahrain, Jordan, Syria and elsewhere.

Word of the detentions of Mr. Mubarak’s sons inspired exuberant demonstrations in Sharm el Sheik, with a crowd of young men chanting “15 days” and “God is great” in the face of riot police officers standing guard as the two brothers were driven away to detention, according to amateur video.

On Sunday, Egypt’s public prosecutor ordered the former president and his sons to be questioned in connection with a range of charges related to corruption and the use of violence against protesters during the three-week uprising that began Jan. 25. More than 800 people were killed, according to Egypt’s Health Ministry.

The specific reason for Mr. Mubarak’s admission to the hospital was not clear, although news reports spoke of heart problems. The justice minister, Mohammed el-Guindi, said questioning of the former president resumed in the hospital, an indication that his health problems were not severe.

Mr. Mubarak, 82, has been staying in Sharm el Sheik since he left office. His hospitalization came two days after he was told that he would be questioned in connection with possible criminal charges. News reports said that the questioning started on Tuesday.

Little is publicly known about the state of Mr. Mubarak’s health, a taboo topic during his nearly 30 years as the leader of Egypt. As recently as 2007, a prominent newspaper editor, Ibrahim Eissa, was sentenced to six months in jail for publishing articles about Mr. Mubarak’s health. Rumors have circulated that Mr. Mubarak has suffered from pancreatic and colon cancer.

In Sharm el Sheik, a crowd pelted the police van carrying the brothers with water bottles, stones and flip-flops, The Associated Press reported

The moves follow growing pressure from Egyptians to prosecute Mr. Mubarak and his family. Last Friday, tens of thousands of people rallied in Tahrir Square in Cairo calling for trials of Mr. Mubarak and his associates, including some members of the military council that now rules the country.

A core of protesters remained in Tahrir Square, also known as Liberation Square, after that rally. They erected a barricade of barbed wire after clashes with security forces before dawn on Saturday left at least two people dead and dozens wounded.

On Tuesday afternoon, the protesters were forcibly removed from Tahrir Square by men in civilian clothes armed with clubs, who fought with protesters and removed their barricades, local news reports said. Many protesters were detained by the military police as they fled the square.

On Sunday, Mr. Mubarak denied the accusations against him and released a five-minute audio recording to a Saudi-owned satellite television network, Al Arabiya, defending his reputation. In the recording, he denied that he or his family had abused power or had any assets abroad.

Mr. Mubarak’s hospitalization prompted suspicions that he — or the governing military council, which is increasingly seen as bent on protecting him — may be staging “an elaborate ruse to get him out of the country for treatment,” said Hani Shakrallah, editor of the news Web site Ahram Online.

“It could be a way to avoid questioning,” Mr. Shakrallah said. “But avoid it for how long? The military are determined to try him.” He added: “The report is not that far-fetched. It is possible they brought him in for the questioning, and the man got so upset that he fell ill.”

Mona El-Naggar contributed reporting.

This article “Egyptian Prosecutors Order 15-Day Detention of Hosni Mubarak” originally appeared at The New York Times.