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Egypt's Mubarak to be moved to prison hospital

Hosni Mubarak will be moved to a prison outside the capital as investigators look to build a case against the ailing former president, Egyptian prosecutors announce.

Pro-Mubarak demonstrators chant slogans in front of the National Television building in Cairo Monday.
Pro-Mubarak demonstrators chant slogans in front of the National Television building in Cairo Monday.

CAIRO // Hosni Mubarak will be moved to a prison outside the capital as investigators look to build a case against the ailing former president, Egyptian prosecutors have announced.

The order to transfer Mr Mubarak to the medical ward at Tora Prison from a civilian hospital in Sharm el Sheikh came after a team of three physicians determined his health was stable, the General Prosecution Office said in a statement late Sunday.

The prosecutors' move, coming three months to the day after the start of a youth-led revolt against his authoritarian government, was the latest setback for Mr Mubarak in two weeks of events that have seen his sons jailed, his political party dismantled and his name removed from public buildings and squares.

On Cairo's streets, the move to place the former head of state behind bars has conjured up a potent range of emotions, from disbelief to glee to sadness.

Ahmed Mahfouz, an office manager in downtown Cairo, said he wished that prosecutors would keep Mr Mubarak quietly detained in his hospital room in Sharm el Sheikh but, at the same time, "recover all the stolen money" that he and his family allegedly spirited out of the country during his tenure.

"On the one hand I am sad because he is an old man and we should respect him for his age and his past military accomplishments," he said.

"On the other, I am happy for it after reading about all the money he and his sons stole from this country."

Prosecutors should press their case, but "the judiciary should take its time to rule" so as to ensure a fair trial, said Mahrouz Abu Sirai, a retired government worker.

"I still can't believe this is all really happening," he said.

"If they give him a 10-year prison sentence, that's enough. He's an old man."

But Mr Mahfouz and Mr Aly, as well as others interviewed yesterday, agreed on one central premise: the Mubarak name should be stripped from squares and monuments across the city as soon as possible.

A committee appointed by the Ministry of Transport will decide today on a new name for one of the most prominent sites: Mubarak Metro Station, which is located beneath Ramses Train Station in the city centre.

The committee will base its decision in part on a Facebook poll hosted by the Egyptian Company to Administer and Operate the Metro, which showed "Martyrs Station" to be the most popular choice yesterday afternoon.

The "Martyrs" name has already proved popular with graffiti artists who have taken to crossing out the Mubarak name on maps in metro cars with spray paint and black markers.

An Egyptian court ruled last Thursday that the official names of government buildings and public places bearing the name of Mr Mubarak or his wife Suzanne should be changed.

The "people have uncovered Mubarak's journey of corruption", the chief judge, Mohammed Hassan Omar, told the court.

The prosecutors' Sunday transfer order says the Ministry of Interior should make arrangements to move Mr Mubarak to Tora Prison as soon as the jail's hospital ward is fitted with appropriate medical equipment, a process that "may need some time, up to one month". Mr Mubarak suffers from atrial fibrillation, the statement said, which "may result in sudden cardiac arrest".

At Tora, Mr Mubarak would join his two sons, Alaa and Gamal, and a number of former advisers and government ministers who are under investigation or contesting corruption charges.

In the meantime, the former president is to be transferred to a military hospital, the statement added, without offering further details. Mena, the official state news agency, reported late on Sunday that he could be moved to a military hospital near Cairo within 48 hours.

Even as prosecutors continue their investigation, government officials have sought to emphasise that Mr Mubarak will receive a fair trial if he is indicted.

"Is it possible to forgive Mubarak? That is up to the law, I don't have the capacity to say that," Essam Sharaf, the prime minister, told Egyptian media on Sunday before starting a trip to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar. "Putting the former president and his sons on trial is not done out of revenge."

cstanton@thenational.ae