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Ousted dictator Hosni Mubarak slipped into a coma on Tuesday and was moved from his prison hospital to a military facility where he was placed on life support. The former president’s condition was announced as “very critical” after suffering a stroke and at one point, the official news agency MENA declared him “clinically dead.” But a spokesman for the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) denied that report, saying that the 84-year-old Mubarak suffered cardiac arrest and was resuscitated by paramedics at the prison hospital. Mubarak’s health crisis comes two days after Egyptians went to the polls to elect his successor. Official word will come on Thursday but both candidates — Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood and Ahmed Shafiq, Mubarak’s former prime minister — declared victory on Tuesday. The dual claims guarantee that no matter who is judged the winner, the loser will charge fraud and throw the country even deeper into a political crisis.
Widespread distrust of the military’s claims about Mubarak’s health was evident in Tahrir Square where tens of thousands of Islamists demonstrated against the recent power grab by the military. Most protestors believe that Mubarak’s condition is not as serious as the military has said, and that the generals just wanted to move their former boss out of the prison hospital to the far more luxurious surroundings of a military clinic. The demonstrators were sent into the streets by the Muslim Brotherhood, which is angry at the verdict by the Supreme Court that dissolved parliament and subsequent actions by the generals who have issued a constitutional decree that eviscerates the power of the president and leaves the military in charge of the legislative and executive functions of government.
There was massive confusion throughout the day about Mubarak’s true condition. After a news agency originally declared him clinically dead, the military council scotched that report, saying that the former president was on life support and in very critical condition. Upon the announcement that Mubarak was clinically dead, spontaneous expressions of joy erupted throughout Cairo with fireworks going off and protestors in Tahrir Square dancing and singing. But the news that the hated Mubarak was still alive dampened their enthusiasm and the protestor’s paranoia of the military resurfaced:
“The military just wanted to make big news that would eclipse the Tahrir protests about the ruling military council, the elections and the amended constitutional,” Mohammed Tarek, 27, an interior designer said, “It worked; the media suddenly started talking about Mubarak, and people started to leave the square.”
But one woman welcomed the news of Mubarak’s demise — even if it was premature. “After 30 years of a brutal regime, the people wanted to say yes, they won for just a day, of course they are rejoicing” said a house wife from Sharabaya.
Mubarak had been in failing health for weeks and heard the verdict in his trial for facilitating the death of protestors from a hospital bed. Following his conviction and after being given a life sentence, he was transferred to a prison hospital where it was reported his condition deteriorated. As the news about Mubarak’s health became grimmer, the former dictator’s struggles were lost in the events of the last week, and the growing confrontation between the country’s two power blocs — SCAF and the Muslim Brotherhood.
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