CAIRO — An Egyptian court on Thursday ordered the name of ousted President Hosni Mubarak and his wife Suzanne removed from all public facilities and institutions, the latest step in dismantling the legacy of the former leader's 29 years in power.
Early in his rule, Mubarak said that out of modesty he didn't want his name put on public buildings, but there are now hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of schools, streets, squares and libraries that bear the name of the former leader or his wife – as well as a major subway station in central Cairo.
Now all those will have to go, a new blow to Mubarak, who was ousted on Feb. 11 and last week was put under detention in a hospital for investigation on charges of corruption and the deadly shooting of protesters. Mubarak's wife Suzanne, who wielded a great deal of behind-the-scenes influence over how the country was run, is due to be questioned over allegations of illegally amassing wealth.
In announcing the ruling, Judge Mohammed Hassan Omar said "people have uncovered Mubarak's journey of corruption."
"It has become clear that the size of the corruption (under Mubarak) that's being uncovered every day exceeds by far anyone's imagination," he said.
After the ruling, Transport Minister Atef Abdel-Hameed told reporters he would act quickly to remove Mubarak's name from the ministry's facilities, including the Cairo subway station.
Mubarak, who will be 83 next month, remains in detention under guard at a hospital in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh. State television on Thursday said the attorney general has ordered the government's top forensic doctor to examine Mubarak to ascertain whether his condition allows him to be removed to the Tora prison hospital.
Attorney General Abdel-Maguid Mahmoud also instructed the doctor to inspect the Tora hospital with a view to providing it with the equipment needed for Mubarak's treatment.
The ex-president underwent surgery last year in Germany to remove his gallbladder. He was admitted to a hospital in Sharm el-Sheikh last week for an irregular heartbeat. Unconfirmed media reports said he also was suffering from depression.
Mubarak's two sons – businessman Alaa and banker-turned-politician Gamal, who was once his father's heir apparent – are already jailed in Tora, just south of Cairo, under investigation for corruption. Stalwarts of the regime are also detained there, including the former prime minister, speakers of parliament's two chambers and a top aide of the former president, as well as several wealthy businessmen linked o the regime.
In a related development, senior Justice Ministry official Assem al-Gohary said the wives of Alaa and Gamal Mubarak would be questioned Tuesday about how their husbands amassed their wealth.
Late Thursday, authorities detained former Oil Minister Sameh Fahmi and seven other former ministry officials over allegations of wasting public money and harming the country's national interest by supplying Israel with gas at rates far below market prices.
Egypt's prosecutor general ordered they remain in custody for 15 days pending further investigation. Prosecutors questioned them for hours Thursday about the much-criticized gas deal which the prosecutor general said has cost Egypt millions of dollars.
The court case over Mubarak's name was brought by lawyer Sameer Sabry against interim Prime Minister Essam Sharaf to force authorities to remove the name of Mubarak and his wife from all public buildings.
During an earlier hearing, hundreds of supporters and opponents of Mubarak clashed outside the court, pelting each other with rocks and water bottles. Several people were slightly injured in the clashes.
Soon after he came to power in 1981 following the assassination of his predecessor Anwar Sadat by Islamic militants, Mubarak publicly stated that he didn't want to follow the widespread custom in the region of having his name planted on public institutions. He also stated in the early 1980s that he would not seek a second term in office, arguing that ruling Egypt was a heavy burden.
By the time he stepped down two months ago, Mubarak had served five terms in office, ran the country much like it was his own fiefdom and many of the country's high profile projects were named after him.
Similarly, his wife Suzanne kept a low profile during the early years of her husband's rule, partly because the liberal attitudes and high profile assumed by Sadat's wife Jihan did not appeal to many in the mainly Muslim and conservative country. But Suzanne Mubarak soon became highly visible through her involvement in projects to do with the affairs of women and children as well as combating human trafficking.
She is widely believed to have been the driving force behind efforts to get her son Gamal to succeed his father, a prospect that most Egyptians as well as the military objected to. Gamal's possible succession was one of the key motives for the youth groups that organized the Jan. 25-Feb.11 uprising that toppled Mubarak.