CAIRO – Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak was being kept alive by life support after he was rushed from prison to a military hospital after suffering a stroke and in rapidly worsening condition, officials said.
The 84-year-old ousted leader’s health crisis added a new element of uncertainty just as a potentially explosive fight opened over who will succeed him.
The state news agency MENA said he was clinically dead when he arrived at the hospital and that doctors used a defibrillator on him several times. It initially said the efforts were unsuccessful.
But the official said Mubarak was put on life support. He had no further details on his condition. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.
The developments add further layers to what is threatening to become a new chapter of unrest and political power struggles in Egypt, 16 months after Mubarak was ousted by a popular uprising demanding democracy. Egyptians were uncertain about Mubarak’s fate, about who will succeed him and about whether his successor will have any power.
Election results due
The campaign of Mubarak’s former prime minister, Ahmed Shafiq, said Tuesday he has won Egypt’s presidential election, countering the Muslim Brotherhood’s claim of victory Monday for its candidate, Mohammed Morsi.
The election commission is to announce the official final results Thursday, but no matter who it names as victor, his rival is likely to reject the result as a fraud. In particular, if Shafiq is declared winner, it could spark an explosive backlash from the Brotherhood.
The Brotherhood, Egypt’s most powerful political group, is already escalating its challenge against the ruling military over the generals’ move this week to give themselves overwhelming authority over the next president. An estimated 50,000 protesters, mostly Islamists, massed in Cairo’s Tahrir Square on Tuesday evening chanting slogans in support of Morsi and denouncing the generals’ power grab.
The health crisis of Mubarak, who is serving a life prison sentence, is yet one more thing to stoke the heat.
Moving Mubarak out of prison is likely to further infuriate many in the public. Many Egyptians have been skeptical of earlier reports that his health was worsening since he was put in prison June 2, believing the reports were just a pretext to move him to another facility. There is a widespread suspicion that security and military officials sympathetic to their old boss are giving him preferential treatment.
Details of the crisis were still sketchy. Earlier the news agency and officials said that while at the Torah Prison hospital he suffered a fast deterioration of his health. His heart stopped beating until he was revived by defibrillation, then he suffered a stroke.
My speculation would be that he had that sort of event where his heart temporarily stopped, said Dr. Lance Becker, an American Heart Association spokesman, who is not involved in Mubarak’s treatment. That doesn’t mean that it’s irreversible, and life support can be used to keep his blood circulating and replace breathing if he is unable to do so on his own, Becker said.
Mubarak has been serving a life sentence at Cairo’s Torah Prison for failing to stop the killing of protesters during the 18-day uprising against his rule last year. The verdict against him has already been a spark for protests – thousands massed in Tahrir when the court acquitted him and his sons on separate corruption charges and cleared several top security chiefs on the protester killings.