CAIRO -- Egypt's deposed President Hosni Mubarak may be transferred to a private military hospital after a marked decline in his health following his sentencing over the weekend to life in prison in the deaths of protesters during last year’s uprising, state media reported Wednesday.
Ahram Online reported that Mubarak was in critical condition in Cairo’s Tora prison hospital and had been put on a respirator five times. State media said the 84-year-old former leader had a nervous breakdown in recent days and suffers from high blood pressure and depression.
Officials said the pronounced deterioration in Mubarak’s health began after his sentencing Saturday when he was transferred from a military hospital to the prison. Media reports said the man who ruled Egypt for 30 years was despondent and initially refused to leave the helicopter that delivered him to Tora.
His son, Gamal, once considered the heir apparent, who is also in prison for alleged financial crimes, was moved to the hospital wing to be near his father, according to media reports. Ahram Online said the decision came after a doctor recommended that Mubarak “needs the company of loved ones.”
Activists criticized the publicity around Mubarak’s condition as a ploy to generate sympathy for a man who attended his 10-month trial on a stretcher. Many Egyptians believe Mubarak’s sentence will be overturned on appeal, especially because six of his top police commanders were acquitted in the same trial of complicity to kill hundreds of protesters in a revolt that brought down the government.
"There is already anger now because of his verdict, and his appeal could easily be accepted," said Ahmed Abdullatef, a 24-year-old activist. "Either way, the people will be in the streets. Officials don't realize they are angering people even more with these moves. If he is acquitted in his appeal, we will either retrieve the martyrs' rights or die like them. There is no going back."
The Mubarak verdict has jolted the volatile atmosphere before next week’s presidential run-off election between Ahmed Shafik, a Mubarak loyalist, and Mohamed Morsi, a senior figure in the Muslim Brotherhood. Activists and liberals oppose both men, but a victory by Shafik would be a tremendous setback to a rebellion that impassioned the Arab world but has yet to free the country of authoritarian rule.
Egypt’s military council has promised to turn power over to a civilian government by July. The generals have given political leaders until Thursday to name a 100-member panel to draft a new constitution or risk the army setting the rules. The country feels adrift, moving from crisis to crisis with almost no consensus and little sense of political certainty.
Mubarak’s trial was also a disappointment to many who claimed the verdict protected the core of the deposed leader’s police state. Days before the sentencing, activists were infuriated over reports in Reuters news service and other media that Mubarak’s confinement in a private military hospital allowed him to receive visitors, strolls gardens, swim in a pool and have access to a gym.
--Reem Abdellatif and Jeffrey Fleishman
Photo: Egyptians in Cairo's landmark Tahrir Square on Tuesday protest verdicts handed down in former President Hosni Mubarak's murder trial. Credit: Mohammed Abed / Agence France-Presse/Getty Images