CAIRO — Hosni Mubarak, the imprisoned former president of Egypt, was either near death or recovering well from minor injuries he suffered when he slipped in the bathroom, according to two of the many accounts of his health that swirled through Cairo Wednesday as the country’s election commission inched toward an official announcement of who would succeed him as president.
The commission warned that its official pronouncement of the results of last weekend’s voting might be delayed as it tries to sort through more than 400 appeals of irregularities filed by the two candidates, Muslim Brotherhood standard-bearer Mohammed Morsi and former Mubarak prime minister Ahmed Shafik. But it was uncertain whether the results, due to be released Thursday, would be delayed only by hours or pushed back to Friday – a postponement that would be sure to raise suspicions about the validity of the result.
There was no easy explanation for the various versions of Mubarak’s health – and much speculation that the varying reports were simply intended to confuse a public already on edge about the military’s reassertion of authority after the Supreme Constitutional Court last week ordered the Islamist-dominated Parliament dissolved.
“Such rumors are nothing but a cheap attempt to destabilize the political scene and ruin the democratic transformation and the transfer of power to the elected president,” said Khairat el Shater, the Muslim Brotherhood’s chief strategist and financier who was the group’s first choice for president, but was declared ineligible to run because of Mubarak-era criminal convictions.
A statement from the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which has run Egypt largely by decree since Mubarak resigned amid protests 16 months ago, said that Mubarak “is still alive but in a critical condition.” That assertion, however, was countered by attorneys who claimed to represent Mubarak, 84, who was sentenced June 2 to life in prison for failing to stop the killing of protesters by security forces trying to put down the 18-day uprising that ended with his departure from office.
Farid el Deeb, a prominent, cigar-smoking lawyer who represented Mubarak at his trial, accused state-owned news media of failing to verify their information before reporting that Mubarak was “clinically dead.”
“The hospital will issue a statement shortly about his official medical status to curb the rumors and confusion from last night about his death reported by irresponsible media that has driven the country into a state of madness,” el Deeb told CNN.
El Deeb said Mubarak had suffered a buildup of fluid in the lungs and had suffered at stroke at the Tora Prison Hospital, after which he was transferred to a military hospital.
Another Mubarak lawyer, Yosri Abdelrazeq, had two versions of Mubarak’s health, one for local news media and another for international journalists.
“Mr. Mubarak simply fell down in the prison bathroom,” Abdelrazeq told The New York Times. The Washington Post had a similar account from Abdelrazeq: “Mubarak had been moved to a hospital because of a head wound caused by a fall in a prison bathroom.”
For the local media, he was less expansive. “Mubarak has been transferred to the military hospital due to the lack of care in Tora Prison Hospital,” he told the Dostor newspaper. “His condition is totally stable.”
The state owned al Ahram newspaper cited “military sources” who said “Mubarak is being kept alive” but said they would not use the expression “clinically dead” to describe his condition.
To add to the confusion, reporters were barred from approaching the military hospital where Mubarak is undergoing treatment. Soldiers and armored personnel carriers surrounded the hospital.
Meanwhile, the elections commission fueled suspicions about the results of last weekend’s presidential balloting with its warning of a possible delay in announcing the results.
The election commission said that Shafik’s lawyers claimed to have found 1 million forged ballots for the Brotherhood’s Morsi, and asked that one of three remedies be considered: reducing Morsi’s vote total by that amount, scheduling new voting in the areas where the forged ballots had been discovered or throwing out last weekend’s voting entirely and holding a new election.
In response, 30 Brotherhood lawyers filed 134 appeals claiming a wide range of violations – including illegal balloting by military and police personnel, forged ballots and vote-buying, according to Mohamed Abdelmaksod, a lawyer for the Brotherhood.
Sabry is a McClatchy special correspondent.