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Security officials in Egypt say the health of Hosni Mubarak, the ousted president, has deteriorated sharply over the past week since he was sentenced to life for failing to prevent the killing of hundreds of protesters who rose up against him last year.
A security official cited by the Associated Press news agency said Mr Mubarak, who is 84, had been slipping in and out of consciousness and that he had needed oxygen to assist his breathing. He said the former president had an irregular heart beat and survived on liquids and yoghurt only.
Mr Mubarak was moved to a prison hospital after his sentencing last Saturday. He had been housed since August in a luxury military hospital on the outskirts of Cairo where Suzanne Mubarak, his wife, his two daughters-in-law and his grandchildren had constant access to him.
Alaa and Gamal, Mr Mubarak’s sons have been in prison since April 2011. They were acquitted last week of corruption charges, but they still face accusations of insider trading in a separate case.
“The former president’s health is in decline, but now it’s stable in its deteriorated state,” said the official cited by the Associated Press. He said the authorities had granted Mrs Mubarak and her daughters-in-law special permission to visit him.
He is also quoted as saying that the authorities had turned down several requests from the Mubarak family to have him moved back to the military hospital.
Many Egyptians have been resentful at what they saw as the exceptional treatment meted out to Mr Mubarak since the charges were filed against him last year.
The interior ministry had said repeatedly that the prison hospital was not sufficiently well-equipped to deal with his case, despite pressure from parliament to have him transferred.
The Egyptian press carried reports on Sunday citing officials saying that the elderly former president was at risk of a stroke. Other reports said he was suffering from depression.
Mr Mubarak had attended all his court hearings lying on a hospital bed that was wheeled into the barred cage where Egyptian defendants are usually held during trials. He wore dark glasses and remained impassive during his sentencing last week, before he was whisked out of court and flown to hospital aboard a helicopter.
The former president was reported to have refused to leave for several hours the helicopter and that he had felt betrayed by the country’s military rulers, and by what he was reported to have considered, a lack of respect for his military history.