Egypt's Hosni Mubarak is in a coma on life support in Cairo after suffering a stroke in prison, but officials deny reports that he is clinically dead.
The uncertainty over the health of the ousted leader came against the backdrop of new tension in the country, with both candidates in a presidential vote claiming victory and the ruling military claiming sweeping new powers.
Mubarak “is not clinically dead,” a medical source said on Wednesday. “He is in a coma and the doctors are trying to revive him.”
“He has been placed on an artificial respirator,” the source added, in an account that was confirmed by a member of Egypt’s ruling military council, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Egypt’s state television carried a ticker item saying Mubarak was in “a coma and is not clinically dead”.
But earlier, state news agency MENA said the ousted strongman (84) had been declared clinically dead after suffering a stroke in prison and being transferred to hospital.
“Hosni Mubarak is clinically dead,” the official news agency reported. “Medical sources told MENA his heart had stopped beating and did not respond to defibrillation.”
A security source said Mubarak’s wife Suzanne was visiting him in hospital, and state television said an “official statement” on his health would be released “soon,” giving no further details.
Mubarak was taken to a Cairo prison on June 2, after a court handed down a life sentence against him over his involvement in the death of protesters during the 2011 uprising that pushed him from power.
Bouts of depression
His health deteriorated after the transfer, with doctors defibrillating him twice earlier this month, and reports saying he was suffering from bouts of depression, high blood pressure and shortness of breath.
His family, including his sons Gamal and Alaa, who are being held on corruption charges, had formally requested Mubarak be transferred to hospital.
But such a move was seen as likely to infuriate Egyptians already angered that Mubarak escaped a death sentence and a court acquitted senior security officials from his regime.
The news of his failing health came against a backdrop of renewed tension over Egypt’s difficult transition, with both candidates in a key presidential vote that wrapped up on Sunday claiming victory in the poll.
The Muslim Brotherhood said their candidate Mohammed Mursi had won the run-off vote in the early hours of Monday morning, and on Tuesday provided what they said were certified copies of ballot tallies to bolster their claims.
But Mursi’s rival Ahmed Shafiq, Mubarak’s last prime minister, has also claimed a victory, with his campaign accusing the Brotherhood of issuing false figures and insisting official results scheduled Thursday will declare him president.
Even as the Brotherhood declared their victory, they seemed set on a collision course with the ruling military council, which issued a constitutional declaration on Sunday night claiming sweeping powers.
The document said the council would retake legislative powers from the Islamist-dominated Parliament after the country’s constitutional court on Thursday ordered the body dissolved.
And it grants the council veto power over the drafting of a permanent Constitution, angering activists who denounced the declaration and an earlier order giving the army power to arrest civilians, as a “coup”.
The Brotherhood also rejected the declaration, insisting the Parliament retains legislative power, and pledging to participate in “popular activities” against it.
On Tuesday night, they joined a mass demonstration in Tahrir, which attracted over 15 000 protesters, some celebrating Mursi’s win as much as denouncing the military move.
The demonstrators were still in the square as the conflicting details of Mubarak’s condition filtered in.
“It’s divine retribution,” said Saber Amr, a teacher. “God doesn’t forgive those who do wrong to their people. God doesn’t forgive those who kill innocents.”
Nearby, Abdel Mottaleb, a Brotherhood supporter offered a more conciliatory tone.
“We are Muslims. We respect the dead regardless,” he said. “God will judge him.” - AFP