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Key facts about Egypt's former president Hosni Mubarak

CAIRO (Reuters) - Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was freed on Friday for the first time in six years after being cleared this month of charges that he conspired to kill protesters in the 2011 uprising that ended his 30-year rule. Below are some key facts about Egypt’s long-time ruler:

A supporter of former Egyptian President Husni Mubarak holds an image of him, after the court of cassation acquitted him, during celebrations for Taba Liberation Day in front of Maadi military hospital in Cairo, Egypt, March 19, 2017. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany

* Mohamed Hosni Mubarak was born on May 4, 1928 in the village of Kafr al-Meselha in the Nile Delta, the son of a government functionary.

* Mubarak joined the Egyptian Military Academy after school before becoming an air force pilot, rising through the ranks to become air force commander. In 1975, he became vice president to Anwar Sadat, the man who made Egypt’s historic peace deal with Israel.

* Mubarak was thrust unexpectedly into office when Islamists assassinated Sadat at a military parade in 1981. The burly former air force commander was never expected to become president but he proved a far more durable leader than anyone imagined at the time.

* In power, Mubarak promoted Middle East peace and, from 2004, backed economic liberalisation measures that delivered sturdy growth but which many ordinary Egyptians blamed for widening the gap between rich and power.

* Mubarak was a close ally of the United States, which saw him as a bulwark against Islamist militants and poured billions of dollars of military and other aid into Egypt since it became the first Arab state to make peace with Israel.

* He always kept a tight lid on political opposition and resisted significant political change, even under pressure from the United States.

* Mubarak won his first multi-candidate presidential election in 2005, but the outcome was never in doubt and his main rival came a distant second. Rights groups and observers said the election was marred by irregularities, as were all elections during his years in powers.

* The former president had suffered from health problems in the waning years of his rule and went to Germany for gall bladder surgery in March 2010. Yet questions remained over who would succeed the ageing stalwart.

* The rising political profile and economic influence of his sons, Alaa and Gamal, led many to believe Mubarak was grooming them to take power after his death, and raised concerns among his allies in the military that would later prove politically fatal.

* Mubarak stepped down on Feb. 11, 2011, after 18 days of demonstrations by millions of Egyptians inspired by a peaceful popular revolution in Tunisia. The military took control pending democratic elections which were held in 2012.

* Mubarak first went into internal exile in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, where he spent more and more time during his last years in power. After suffering heart problems during questioning, Mubarak was detained in hospital pending the outcome of his trials.

* He first stood trial on Aug. 3, 2011 for the killing of protesters on charges that carry the death penalty, becoming the first leader toppled in the “Arab Spring” uprisings to be tried. The televised early hearings mesmerised the Arab world, showing the ageing autocrat lying on a hospital bed in a courtroom cage.

* Mubarak was sentenced to life in prison in 2012 for his role in the killing of protesters. In 2014, an appeal court judge dropped charges against him. A final ruling by the Court of Cassation on March 2 declared him innocent. In the end, he was convicted on only one corruption charge, serving the three-year sentence in hospital, where he fell and hurt his pelvis in 2014.

* Mubarak left the Maadi Military Hospital on March 24, for his home in the upscale Cairo neighbourhood of Heliopolis.

* Mubarak’s critics said his release symbolised the reversal of gains made during the 18-day uprising the ended his 30-year rule.

Writing by Lin Noueihed; Editing by Julia Glover