Egypt detains ex-president's sons in probe

SHARM EL-SHEIKH, Cairo (AP) - Egyptian prosecutors ordered the detention of the former president's powerful sons for 15 days allegations of corruption and the abuse of their authority are investigated, state television said early Wednesday.

The move, the most dramatic in a series of investigations against top regime officials, comes just hours after former President Hosni Mubarak, 82, was hospitalized with heart problems as he too was to be questioned by prosecutors.

Gamal Mubarak, his younger son, was a top official in the ruling party and was widely seen as being groomed to succeed his father before 18 days of popular protests brought down the regime on Feb. 11.

While the ex-president was in the hospital in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh where he has been living since being removed from power, his sons were taken for questioning to the nearby courthouse by prosecutors from Cairo.

An angry crowd of 2,000 people gathered outside and demanded the two be arrested.

Then, in the early hours of the morning, the head of provincial security in the South Sinai told the crowd that Gamal and his businessman brother Alaa would be detained.

"Brothers, whatever you wanted, you have got ... 15 days," said Maj. Gen. Mohammed el-Khatib, as the crowd erupted in cheers.

As a police van with drawn curtains took away the two brothers, the crowd pelted it with water bottles, stones and their flip-flops, a sign of disrespect in the Arab world.

The increasing role of Gamal Mubarak in the government over the last decade and the belief that he might succeed his father helped galvanize Egypt's protest movement.

At least 800 people are estimated to have been killed during the protests as police opened fire on the crowds. Authorities are now investigating government officials for their role in ordering the violence.

Gamal is also believed to be the architect of Egypt's privatization program and economic liberalization, which has brought in billions in foreign investment but has also widened the gap between rich and poor.

Many of his close associates were billionaires and held top positions in the ruling party and the government. There are allegations that they used their positions for personal gain.

Mubarak himself has not been detained, but he was due to be questioned by prosecutors when he was admitted to the Sharm el-Sheikh hospital Tuesday night complaining of heart problems.

In a sign that his ailment might not be very serious, however, Justice Minister Mohammed el-Guindi said he was then questioned in his hospital suite for his role in the violence against protesters.

The investigation into corruption charges would be carried out later by the Justice Ministry's anti-corruption department, he added.

The protest movement that deposed Mubarak is now pushing for him to be brought to justice for what they say are decades of abuse.

The protesters had criticized the army, which took over the country after the president was pushed out, for being too close to the old regime and not swiftly bringing Mubarak to trial.

For four days protesters reoccupied parts of Tahrir Square in downtown Cairo and closed it off to traffic. Efforts by the army to evict them Saturday resulted in at least one death and dozens of injuries and raised tensions between the protesters and the country's military rulers.

The investigations into Mubarak's sons are expected to mollify the opposition.

On Sunday, Mubarak defended himself in a prerecorded message saying he had not abused his authority, and investigators were welcome to check over his assets.

It was his first address to the people in the two months since he stepped down. Shortly after, the prosecutor general issued a summons for Mubarak to appear for questioning.


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