Debate swirls over Mubarak legacy

Historians in the News

Cairo, Egypt (CNN) -- For nearly 30 years, one man dominated Egypt.

Hosni Mubarak, 82, survived would-be assassins and ill health, crushed a rising Islamist radical movement, and maintained the peace with neighboring Israel that got his predecessor killed. His government's continued observance of the Camp David accords was the cornerstone of what peace has been achieved in the decades-long Arab-Israeli conflict....

Mubarak was a Soviet-trained pilot who was chief of staff of Egypt's air force during the 1973 Mideast war. The early success of Egyptian pilots against Israel made him a national hero, and then-President Anwar Sadat made him vice president in 1975.

Six years later, Sadat died in a hail of gunfire at a military parade, killed by Islamic militants from within the army's own ranks after he took the dramatic step of making peace with Israel. Upon assuming office, one of Mubarak's first acts was to declare a state of emergency that barred unauthorized assembly, restricted freedom of speech and allowed police to jail people indefinitely.

He made extensive use of those powers in the ensuing decades. The Egyptian army put down riots by disgruntled police officers in 1986, and he threw an estimated 30,000 people in jail when jihadists carried out a string of attacks on tourists.

"He pretty much wiped them out," University of Michigan Professor of History Juan Cole said. "It's not an accident that they were in Afghanistan instead of Egypt." The government penetrated opposition movements so thoroughly that "if five people (sat) down to plot something, the fifth person (wrote) a report to Hosni Mubarak about it," he said....

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