Egypt orders "pharaoh" Mubarak's name stripped off

CAIRO Thu Apr 21, 2011 5:39pm EDT

Demonstrators gesture as they listen to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's televised speech screened in Tahrir Square in Cairo February 10, 2011. REUTERS/Asmaa Waguih

Demonstrators gesture as they listen to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's televised speech screened in Tahrir Square in Cairo February 10, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Asmaa Waguih

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CAIRO (Reuters) - Egypt Thursday took another step toward erasing the legacy of deposed president Hosni Mubarak by ordering his name, and that of his family, removed from public institutions across the nation.

Sycophantic officials seeking to curry Mubarak's favor had resorted to naming everything from streets to schools to military installations and remote, rural clinics after the authoritarian leader many Egyptians call a modern pharaoh.

Mass protests ended Mubarak's 30-year-rule in February, and a court Thursday ruled it was no longer acceptable for his name, and that of his wife and sons, to be so widely used.

"Officials in the previous administration had named a range of public institutions after Mubarak and his wife with the aim of pleasing him, and for a range of other embarrassing reasons," the court said in a statement after the ruling.

Outside the courtroom, pro-democracy activists celebrated the verdict with ululations and whoops of joy, as Mubarak supporters tried to drown them out with chants of: "Unlawful! Unlawful!"

The case had been brought to court by Samir Sabry, a celebrity lawyer who told Reuters after the verdict it was high time Egyptians stopped living under Mubarak's shadow.

Lawyers for Mubarak had said it was unacceptable to alter Egypt's history like this.

"For 30 years, we've been suffering from a ruling family that has now been accused of several crimes, including abuse of power and murder," Sabry said. "We need to move on."

MODERN PHARAOH

Nobody knows exactly how many public institutions and awards bear the names of the Mubarak family, but the number is likely to be in the hundreds of thousands. At least one Cairo metro station is named after him, and not the Pharaoh Ramses whose statue is only a few meters away.

The cabinet recently replaced the "Mubarak" in the name of a cultural award with "Nile," and the American University in Cairo also removed the name of Suzanne Mubarak, an alumnus, from one of its lecture halls.

The Egyptian practice of naming places after those in power harks back to ancient times, when pharaohs etched their names on public monuments, often on top of those of their predecessors.

It became even more rife during Mubarak's era when graft and nepotism riddled the administration. Investigations by the state prosecutor into the conduct of government officials has so far revealed gross abuses of power.

Once-ubiquitous portraits of the ex-president and his family have also been removed since the protests erupted on January 25, replaced by revolutionary graffiti and posters urging the people to cooperate with the military generals who now rule Egypt.

FORMER COMMANDER

The former head of the Armed Forces, Mubarak's name had been etched in marble plaques that decorate military buildings.

Both the military council and the interim government have been keen to prove to Egyptians they are serious about cracking down on graft and taking the former administration to task.

This month, the prosecutor ordered Mubarak, 82, detained for questioning into allegations that include corruption and murder.

His sons, Alaa and Gamal, and many other senior officials are being interrogated behind prison bars and a special panel formed to uncover ill-gotten gains will question Mubarak's daughters-in-law next week, the state news agency said.

Thursday, Egypt's public prosecutor ordered the authorities to inspect the medical facility in Cairo's Torah prison to determine whether it was equipped to receive Mubarak who remains in a hospital in Sharm el-Sheikh.

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