Mubarak on life support
BY RANIA AL MALKY
Cairo: Amid a slew of leaks, rumors and official statements by anonymous sources, along with much fear-mongering, news of ousted president Hosni Mubarak’s deteriorating health was met with a massive dose of skepticism.
Initial reports on Tuesday evening that Mubarak was dead, soon gave way to a report by an official Middle East News Agency (MENA) report that he was clinically dead and on life support.
By late Tuesday one of his lawyers denied the news, saying that Mubarak was in a coma after suffering a brain stroke and that he was moved to the military hospital in Maadi. A defibrillator was reportedly used to get the 84-year-old’s heart beating again.
There were conflicting reports on how he was moved, whether by ambulance or by helicopter, as the BBC had reported.
On Wednesday morning, the confusion was sustained with state-run media noting the deliberate shroud of secrecy engulfing the health of the former head of state, a topic that has been a source of contention over the years prior to his ouster.
Egynews.net, for instance, describes the heavy military and police presence around the hospital where he is now receiving treatment. Only patients and members of their family are allowed in following a thorough screening process to avoid leaks.
One unnamed military officer told the state-run website that Mubarak was in a coma and is on life support, while another, General Said Abbas, member of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, said that he only had a stroke, describing any talk of clinical death as “nonsense.”
SCAF General Mamdouh Shahin was also quoted as saying that “Mubarak was not clinically dead,” while SCAF General Mohsen Fangary said that he was in “critical condition.”
Since a court sentenced him to life in prison earlier this month for his failure to stop the killing of protesters during the January 2011 uprising, after which he was moved to Tora prison hospital, news of his failing health has been seen as a ruse to elicit public sympathy for him, or as a prelude to a health amnesty.
Many also believe that the news aims to distract attention from a recently announced addendum to the interim constitution slammed as a soft coup against the democratic process by Egypt’s military rulers.
The addendum, passed soon after polling ended in the presidential election runoff, strips the president of most of his traditional powers, gives SCAF control over the legislature (in light of a recent ruling by the Supreme Constitutional Court dissolving parliament); as well as control over the budget and possibly over the selection of the 100-strong constituent assembly to be tasked with drafting a new charter within three months of its formation.
In this highly charged atmosphere, news of Mubarak’s failing health comes at a dramatic moment when two highly controversial presidential candidates claim to be his successors.
The Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi has faced a fierce election battle against Mubarak’s last prime minister Ahmed Shafik, whose triumph at the polls may well bring the ailing octogenarian back to life. -The Egypt Monocle