CAIRO (Reuters) - In rare testimony to a Cairo court, former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak denied on Wednesday that he ordered the killing of protesters in a 2011 uprising, saying history would vindicate him.
Mubarak, 86, was sentenced to life in prison in 2012 for complicity in the deaths of demonstrators and the breakdown of law and order during the 18-day revolt that ended his 30-year presidency, but an appeals court subsequently ordered a retrial.
He was freed on those charges, but is serving a separate three-year sentence for embezzlement at a military hospital in the upscale Maadi district of Cairo.
Many Egyptians who lived through his autocracy and crony capitalism considered it a victory to see Mubarak behind bars.
But since the ouster of elected Islamist President Mohamed Mursi last year by then-army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, some Mubarak-era figures have been freed, raising concern among activists that the old regime was regaining influence.
The political demise of Mursi and his Muslim Brotherhood at the hands of the military means voices more sympathetic to the former airforce officer are now being heard.
Mubarak used his testimony, which was beamed live into millions of homes across Egypt, to make an appeal to the public, recounting his work for the country over what he said was a 62-year career as military officer and president.
“I swear to God that every decision or policy I pursued was meant for the good of the nation and the people of my nation, those who supported me and those who didn’t,” said Mubarak.
“If the end of my time nears, my conscience is at rest. I spent my life defending Egypt and its interests and its people in war and peace.”
Reading from a prepared speech, Mubarak said he had never been motivated by high office and highlighted his role in the 1973 war with Israel and history of fighting “terrorism”, saying he handed power to the army in 2011 for the sake of his country.
Since Sisi’s takeover, Egypt has declared the Brotherhood a “terrorist” group. Sisi, who won a presidential election in May, has vowed that the group will cease to exist under his rule.
Hundreds of Islamists have been killed and thousands have been arrested in the past year, many of them sentenced to death in mass trials that have drawn condemnation from Western governments and human rights groups.
At the same time, the secular leaders of the 2011 revolt have found themselves on the wrong side of Egypt’s new rulers, some of them serving long sentences for taking part in small demonstrations.
In contrast, the lengthy testimonies of several Mubarak-era officials have been televised in recent days, giving them a platform to rebuild their reputations with the public.
Sporting the blue prison garb of a convict, Mubarak was wheeled into a courtroom cage on a hospital bed, but otherwise appeared in good health, his faced relaxed and his voice clear.
He said he had confidence in the court, but denied charges of corruption in a separate case in which he has been convicted.
“Hosni Mubarak, who is before you today, did not order at all the killing of protesters or the shedding of the blood of Egyptians and I did not issue an order to cause chaos and I did not issue an order to create a security vacuum,” he said.
The verdict in his case is due on Sept. 27.
Additional reporting by Asma Al Sharif and Stephen Kalin; Editing by Mark Heinrich and Crispian Balmer