Conflict & Justice

Confusion Surrounding Mubarak's Health Adds to Anxiety About Political Turmoil

In Egypt, deposed president Hosni Mubarak is in critical condition.

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The 84 year-old was moved from prison to a military hospital in Cairo Tuesday night. He was put on life support and was joined by his wife and sons.

The news comes at a moment of high political drama in Egypt. The country is waiting for the official results in its first contested presidential election. The army won't say when they'll be announced.

As the numbers of demonstrators in Tahrir Square swelled into the tens of thousands late Tuesday night, the news broke on Egyptian State TV.

Mubarak had suffered a stroke. He had to be treated with a defibrillator and then moved from the Tora prison to a Cairo military hospital.

The ex-president was said to be "clinically dead" and on life support. People soon gathered outside the hospital, some to show their support for the man who ruled over Egypt with an iron fist for 30 years.

"We love Mubarak. We love Mubarak. Mubarak is good man, good president," one man said.

"I don't recognize the revolution or the people who are here, or, in the Tahrir Square. And I'm supporting this man (Mubarak) until the end," said a woman nearby.

Things got tense when arguments broke out between Mubarak supporters and those who denounced the former dictator as a thief and criminal.

A young dental student named Ahmed said he stopped by out of curiosity.

"Actually, I hear on the news that he's clinically dead and I saw a lot of people stopping by from the cars and gathering around the hospital, I wanted to figure out, are they going to see him. I wanted to figure out what's going on," Ahmed said.

When Ahmed heard the statement from Egypt's ruling generals last night that said Mubarak was not actually "clinically dead," but in stable condition, he said it made him think that the opposite was probably true.

"They said that he's not dead and it's just a rumor and it's not true, but I think he's dead."

There wasn't much more clarity on Mubarak's condition on Wednesday. The Muslim Brotherhood issued a statement that said reports about his medical condition were based on rumors, and that they're part of a plot by the military to distract people's attention from the presidential election.

Results were supposed to be announced on Thursday. But today Egypt's Elections Commission pushed the date back, saying a panel of judges has to look into some 400 complaints about the voting. The Commission gave no new date.

Speaking with Egyptians on the street in Cairo, many say they're suspicious of this latest round of stories about Mubarak's health. At this point, some say they just don't know what to believe. That includes El-Gazzar.

"We heard, we heard. That he's in the hospital. But God knows. I think he left, somewhere outside," she said.

Maybe he fled the country. Maybe he's dead already. Or, perhaps Mubarak was allowed to move from his prison cell to a hospital room where he can be comfortable, says Ihab Hamdy.

"I don't believe Mubarak's health is in danger," Hamdy said. "These are just rumors. They are taking very good care of him right now. What people really want is for Mubarak to get the death sentence, not just life in prison."

But there are some who are torn between empathy and disdain for the ex-president.

A woman who gave her name as Fatma said she feels sorry for Mubarak. Still, she said, this is the man who was in charge of everything when all these people were killed during the revolution.

Maybe, she said, he deserves to suffer at the end of his life.

Yet another version of Mubarak's situation emerged Wednesday from one of his lawyers. He told the New York Times that the former president actually slipped and fell in a prison bathroom.

Mubarak was moved to the hospital where he was treated, the lawyer said, and now, he is in stable condition. These details are not likely to persuade many Egyptians one way or the other.

They're far more concerned about the condition of their nation than the health of their former dictator.

  • Mona-El-Gazzar.jpg

    Mona El-Gazzar says she's not sure what to believe about the stories of Hosni Mubarak's condition. "I'm very worried about the situation in Egypt right now." (Photo: Yolande Knell)

  • Ihab-Hamdy.jpg

    Ihab Hamdy says he doesn't believe Hosni Mubarak is in ill health. "He's being treated better than the people injured in the revolution." (Photo: Yolande Knell)