Social media in the Arab world has been buzzing over a recent photo of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, in which he looks frail and overweight.
The 90-year-old is seen in the picture alongside a young woman, Helly El Saadany.
Many users criticized her after the photo was published Friday for the way in which it portrayed the president, who ruled Egypt for 30 years until he was ousted during the 2011 Arab Spring protests.
El Saadani responded to the criticism by saying someone had stolen the photo from her personal phone and published it without Mubarak’s consent.
Some noted the difference between how he looked in the picture and in a photo taken mere months earlier.
Compare to Hosni Mubarak last March, definitely more signs of aging, almost unrecognizable today. pic.twitter.com/NLFdO4BGT8
— Joyce Karam (@Joyce_Karam) August 31, 2018
“I took the picture with President Mubarak because I love and respect him so much and it was a dream come true to be able to meet him,” El Saadany said in an online statement. “I was asked not to post the picture and of course I had to respect their wish for privacy. But somehow the picture was stolen from my phone leaked and went viral without my permission or consent.
“Unfortunately the person who did that must be close to have access to my phone, what a Shame!” she added. “Such a disgusting world we live in, no one has any kind of respect for the privacy of others anymore. How this country stooped so low is truly shocking.
“I would like to apologize to President Mubarak and his family for any disturbance I might have unintentionally caused, I take full responsibility for this.”
While some commentators empathized with El Saadany, others saw her statement as insincere, because she published it a full day after the photo was posted.
Mubarak rose to power in Egypt in 1981, shortly after president Anwar Sadat was murdered, and ruled until the protests that swept much of the Middle East in early 2011 removed him from power within less than a month.
He was then tried and jailed for life for the killing of hundreds of the protesters against him, but the main charges against him were dropped in a retrial and he was freed in March 2017.