CAIRO — A team of doctors was brought overnight to the prison where ousted President Hosni Mubarak reportedly suffered a health-crippling nervous breakdown, Egypt’s state news agency reported Wednesday.
Prison doctors were contemplating moving Mubarak to a better-equipped military or private hospital, the Middle East News Agency (MENA) reported.
The 84-year-old former statesman was sentenced to life in prison Saturday for complicity in the death of protesters during the 2011 wintertime revolt that led to his downfall.
Mubarak is being treated for high blood pressure and was placed on a ventilator five times in the past several hours, MENA reported.
Mubarak has been in poor health for years. But reports of his condition deteriorating since being pushed out of power Feb. 11 last year have been met with skepticism by Egyptians, many of whom see them as part of an effort to seek leniency.
MENA reported Tuesday that relatives visited Mubarak on Monday night at the hospital wing of Cairo’s Tora prison, where he was taken after being sentenced Saturday. One of Mubarak’s sons, Gamal, who is being held on corruption charges, was transferred to the area where his father is being held because doctors wanted the ailing former president to be near relatives, MENA said.
Hours before news of Mubarak’s deteriorating health emerged, thousands of Egyptians poured into Tahrir Square to protest the acquittal of six senior police officials charged in the killing of protesters during last year’s revolt. The officials had stood trial alongside Mubarak.
The Muslim Brotherhood, which has stayed on the sidelines of many such demonstrations since Mubarak’s ouster, endorsed Tuesday’s rally in an apparent attempt to burnish the revolutionary credentials of its presidential candidate, Mohamed Morsi, and stoke opposition to his rival, the pro-military secular candidate Ahmed Shafiq.
The Tuesday turnout eclipsed that of most protests held at the iconic square this year on Fridays, the customary day for demonstrations. The rally indicated that the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party will run a firmly anti-military campaign as it seeks to defeat Shafiq, a former air force chief.
That effort appears to be gaining traction, but more as a result of the deeply rooted antipathy in revolutionary circles toward Shafiq than of fervent support for Morsi, an uncharismatic figure who was propelled to the front of the presidential race by the Brotherhood’s political machine. The runoff election will be held June 16-17.
Clerics linked to Egypt’s renowned al-Azhar University were chanting against Shafiq, an unusual sight for members of a group that is nominally apolitical.
“I support Morsi because he is a revolutionary candidate, not a Muslim Brotherhood candidate,” said Mohamed Yousef, an al-Azhar cleric. “The Muslim Brotherhood will not get enough votes unless all Egyptians unite.”
But a considerable number of Egyptians say they intend to sit out the runoff. Sina Esaam, a 17-year-old student who participated in last year’s revolt, said she was disgusted by Morsi’s attempt to re-brand himself as a revolutionary.
“They have nothing to do with the revolution,” she said as Brotherhood supporters thronged around rally organizers who were singing Morsi’s praises and denouncing Shafiq. “Where were they from the beginning? Where were they when there was violence? They’re used to just using the revolution.”