Confusion in Egypt over claims Hosni Mubarak ‘clinically dead’

Jun 20, 2012

Conspiracy theories abound as former Egyptian despot is moved from prison to hospital after a stroke

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HOSNI MUBARAK, the former President of Egypt, has suffered a stroke and may be close to death, reports from Maadi military hospital in Cairo suggest. There is confusion as to the deposed dictator's actual condition: one report this morning said Mubarak was "clinically dead".

Mubarak, 84, was ousted in last year's uprising, and jailed for life earlier this month for his role in the death of protesters. There have been frequent reports since Mubarak's downfall that his health has deteriorated, many of which have proved wrong.

Through the night, supporters and opponents gathered outside the hospital where the former president is being treated to hear conflicting reports about Mubarak's condition.

Government officials and the state news agency initially said that he had suffered a cardiac arrest and a stroke in prison and had been declared "clinically dead" after being taken to hospital – a claim denied by the ruling military junta, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces.

Other reports said Mubarak had been placed on life support. But by early today, an Interior Ministry spokesman said he was in a critical condition but alive, according to the BBC.

The confusion over Mubarak's health injected new volatility into the country's growing political and constitutional crisis. The two candidates to replace Mubarak as leader have both declared themselves the winners of last weekend's election – Egypt's first democratic presidential poll.

On Monday, Mohamed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood leader, said he had won, beating Ahmed Shafik, Mubarak's last prime minister, with 52 per cent of the vote. Shafik has disputed the result and official results are expected later this week.

Mubarak's sudden decline has evoked cynicism from some, reports The New York Times. "It is very Shakespearean," said Diaa Rashwan, an analyst at Al Ahram Centre, a state-financed research institute. "To himself, he is eternal. There can be nobody after him. He does not want to hear the name of his successor."

Egypt's conspiracy theorists believe that the reports of Mubarak's ill health are at best an attempt by his remaining supporters to win sympathy and have him moved to the military hospital from prison, and at worst part of a complicated game by the military attempting to deflect attention from their own political machinations. At the weekend Scaf awarded itself the final say in drawing up the new constitution – a decision that severely curtails the new president's remit.

In Tahrir Square, where crowds have gathered to protest the latest power grab by the generals, news of Mubarak's health was greeted with doubt. "They say Mubarak really died," said Hatem Moustafa, 22. "Maybe this time it is really true." But he was not convinced.

"I think the military council is saying this so that we will leave Tahrir Square," Moustafa said. "They would say anything to get us to leave the Square."

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