Cairo: From being one of the world's longest-serving Presidents, Egypt's war hero Muhammad Hosni Sayyid Mubarak has now been condemned to spend the twilight of his life in prison.
It would be an inglorious transition for a leader who ruled Egypt with an iron hand occupying the fabled 'Qasr El Qobba', the sprawling presidential palace in Cairo for nearly 30 years, to the infamous Tora prison in southern Cairo.
84-year-old Mubarak has been held in the past few months in a presidential suite in a hospital in the outskirts of Cairo and now he moves to the jail where his sons and members of his toppled regime are held.
He was sentenced to life in prison by a judge who convicted him of complicity in the murder of protesters during the Spring uprising that ousted him last year.
Elevated to presidency after Islamic radicals assassinated his predecessor Anwar Sadat in 1981, Mubarak steered the most prominent Arab nation through a turmoil that swept the Middle East in the form of wars, terrorism and religious extremism.
Mubarak survived six assassination attempts during his rule but could not survive the deluge of unprecedented street protests that brought him down.
Until the outbreak of the grassroots uprising on January 25 last year, Mubarak seemed insurmountable as President of the most populous nation in the Arab world.
Mubarak was lucky to escape when Sadat was assassinated by Islamic radicals at a military parade in Cairo and has survived at least six assassination attempts since then.
The narrowest being in 1995 shortly after his arrival in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa to attend an African summit.
In the end, however, he was consumed by people's anger and fury that lasted 18 days.
Mubarak was sworn in as President on October 14, 1981,
eight days after Sadat's assassination.
The former Egyptian Air Force Commander, despite having little popular appeal, had managed to hold on to power for three decades by positioning himself as a trusted Western ally to keep peace with Israel.
Throughout his years in power, Mubarak maintained the unpopular policy of peace with Israel and accommodation with the West that cost Sadat his life.
Mubarak, who ruled as a quasi-military leader since he took power, kept the country under emergency law, with sweeping powers to curb basic freedoms. He argued draconian laws were necessary to combat Islamist terrorism, that he said would target the country's lucrative tourism sector.
Amid pressure from his powerful ally United States, Mubarak had come under pressure for the first time to encourage democracy in the country.
Mubarak, who won three elections unopposed since 1981, had to change the system to allow rival candidates in his fourth contest in 2005.
Never a smoker or a drinker, he has built himself a reputation as a fit man who leads a healthy life.
He had groomed his 40-year-old former investment banker son Gamal Mubarak to become the next leader as he moved steadily up the ranks of the NDP party. But the street protests derailed that ambitious plans.
Born in 1928 in a small village at Menofya near Cairo, Mubarak is married to a half-British graduate of the American University in Cairo, Suzanne Mubarak. They have two sons.
A frail and ailing Mubarak heard his sentencing in the defendant's cage surrounded by his sons and former officials. The verdict can be appealed.
But his composure broke down when his helicopter landed at the Tora prison.
Mubarak cried and would not get out of the helicopter, till the security officials told him firmly that this was the place where he would have to spend whatever remains of his life.
First Published: Saturday, June 02, 2012, 17:27