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Ousted Egyptian Leader Hosni Mubarak on Life Support

June 19, 2012 at 12:00 AM EST
There were conflicting reports tonight about the health of critically ill former Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak. Gwen Ifill talks to Nancy Youssef of McClatchy Newspapers in Cairo, who says the ousted president is in a "critical state."
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GWEN IFILL: The word came late today from Egypt’s state news agency that ousted President Hosni Mubarak was clinically dead. That was followed closely by reports challenging that account.

We get more now from Nancy Youssef with the McClatchy Newspapers in Cairo. Nancy is joining us by telephone.

Nancy, can you tell us what the latest is, what you know about what’s happening?

NANCY YOUSSEF, McClatchy Newspapers: Well, we have received reports from the state news agency, which is one of the few reliable sources, we thought, on this matter that said he was clinically dead.

And that was followed shortly by Gen. Shaheen from the Supreme Armed — Council of the Armed forces, which is ruling the country, saying that he was not dead, but in a critical state and unconscious, followed by reports from his lawyer again saying he wasn’t dead, but in a critical state.

And so it appears to be that he is — his health is failing. He was moved from the Tora prison to a military hospital because of his failing health. And so Egypt right now is watching and waiting for reports for some confirmation about what the state of their former president is.

GWEN IFILL: Just to be clear at this time, shortly after 6:00 p.m. ET here in Washington, there is no confirmation that he’s actually passed away, but that he is just on life support. Is there any reaction on the streets in Cairo?

NANCY YOUSSEF: Well, initially, we were hearing cars honking in celebration. And that’s now slowed down a bit. At the hospital where he’s being treated, there doesn’t seem to be much activity.

This was something that the Egyptians have been following for weeks now, since his life sentence on June 2. And almost instantly there were state media reports that his health was failing, that he was depressed, that had they allowed his son Gamal in to boost his spirits.

But today was the first time we saw a real change in that he was moved from a prison to a military hospital, suggesting that his health had failed. And so all of Egypt is tuning into state media and trying to get a better sense of what has happened. He may no longer be president, but his persona still captures the attention of Egyptians and they follow his every move very closely still.

GWEN IFILL: Every time we have seen Hosni Mubarak of late, it’s been in a courtroom. He’s been in that kind of cage structure and he’s been in a hospital bed. Did we ever hear what the source of his health problems are?

NANCY YOUSSEF: Well, it started in about 2003 when he had collapsed during a parliament session.

And since then there has been a sort of fascination with his health as people followed it. A few years ago, he was reportedly diagnosed with cancer. And in the last few days, we have heard talks about stroke, a heart attack, that he had to be resuscitated several times.

So that’s the latest that we know. Up until the fall of the regime, it was illegal to talk about his health. And ever since then, it’s been sort of rampant speculation about the state of his health. So it’s an interesting turn. It went from something that was sort of clouded in secrecy to now open to rumors and speculations.

GWEN IFILL: Even as Egypt is waiting to see what the outcome is of its latest — its first democratic elections in many decades.

Nancy Youssef, thank you for keeping us up to speed in this story.

NANCY YOUSSEF: Thank you.