A leading Israel Knesset Member and former minister, who frequently dealt with Hosni Mubarak, says he offered the deposed leader asylum in Eilat.
Mubarak turned down the offer from former Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer “because he was patriot” the legislator told Army Radio Wednesday.
At the height of the uprising that eventually forced Mubarak to step down, he refused to consider leaving the country, stating, “I will die in Egypt.”
Ben-Eliezer was instrumental in closing the highly controversial natural gas deal with Egypt. Mubarak’s opponents charge that he sold Israel gas at a cheap price and pocketed hundreds of millions of dollars in the deal.
The deposed Egyptian president’s trial for murder and corruption began Wednesday morning after he arrived on a stretcher from his Red Sea resort hospital.
Egyptians “turn their backs to him during this painful hour,” Ben-Eliezer said. “The Middle East after Mubarak will be completely different. He was one of the leaders who was able to keep the stability in the Middle East [and] was entirely committed to the peace process with the Palestinians in Israel.”
Mubarak’s trial was suspended for consultations approximately on hour after it began Wednesday. Videos of the proceedings show a very weak man, who has suffered recently from heart problems and cancer.
The former autocratic ruler and his two sons, also on trial, were wearing prison uniforms.
Mubarak’s appearance has strongly affected Egyptians. Many supporters broke down in tears at the sight of the once self-confident and suave leader, while opponents celebrated what they saw as justice after three decades of autocratic rule.
An Arab country placing a former leader, especially of Mubarak’s stature, on trial is unprecedented, and the effect of the televised trial on the Arab Spring uprising is yet to be seen.
“There’s a powerful symbolic value,” said Shadi Hamid, director of research at the Brookings Doha Center in Qatar and quoted by Bloomberg News. “Here’s one of the longest-serving autocrats in modern history, and he’s in a cage, and he will be held accountable for his crimes.”