CAIRO — Egypt’s 84-year-old ex-president Hosni Mubarak suffered what was said to be a heart attack while on a helicopter flight to a Cairo prison hospital, Egyptian state media reported on Saturday. According to security officials, Mubarak suffered a ‘health crisis’ on the way to prison, but reports of a heart attack could not immediately be confirmed. The ailing former head of state’s health was said to have deteriorated after he was sentenced to life in prison Saturday.
The officials said Mubarak cried in protest and resisted leaving the helicopter that took him to a prison hospital for the first time since he was detained in April 2011. They said the former leader insisted he be flown to the military hospital on the outskirts of Cairo where he was held during the trial. Mubarak finally left the chopper and moved to the Torah prison hospital more than two hours after the helicopter landed there.
Earlier, Mubarak sat stone-faced and frowning in the courtroom’s metal defendants’ cage while judge Ahmed Rifaat read out the conviction and sentence against him, showing no emotion with his eyes concealed by dark sunglasses. His sons Gamal and Alaa looked nervous but also did not react to either the conviction of their father or their own acquittals.
Egypt’s prosecutor-general decided after the sentencing to transfer Mubarak from the International Medical Center to Tora Prison, the site of some of the Mubarak regime’s “worst crimes.” Mubarak was taken by helicopter to the prison and was interned in its hospital ward.
Mubarak’s lawyer announced his client’s intention to appeal the court’s ruling. We will appeal. The ruling is full of legal flaws from every angle,” Yasser Bahr told AFP.
Mubarak’s former interior minister, Habib al-Adly, also received a life sentence for the same charge. Mubarak’s two sons — Gamal and Alaa — were acquitted on corruption charges, as was Mubarak himself.
Al-Adly’s six subordinates were acquitted of all charges.
The Muslim Brotherhood reacted to the court’s decision by calling for a retrial with solid evidence.
“The public prosecutor did not carry out its full duty in gathering adequate evidence to convict the accused for killing protesters,” said Yasser Ali, official spokesman for the Mohamed Morsi campaign.
“[Mubarak's] punishment is mild considering the crimes he committed against his homeland for over 30 years,” the Muslim Brotherhood added.
Rifaat described Mubarak’s era as “30 years of darkness” and “a darkened nightmare” that ended only when Egyptians rose up to demand change.
“They peacefully demanded democracy from rulers who held tight grip on power,” the judge said.
Rifaat, who was presiding over his last court session before he retires, said Mubarak and el-Adly did not act to stop the killings during 18-day days of mass protests that were met by a deadly crackdown of security forces on unarmed demonstrators. More than 850 protesters were killed, most shot to death, in Cairo and other major cities.
Rifaat delivered a strongly worded statement Saturday before handing down sentences in Mubarak’s trial.
“Here was God’s will that inspired the people of Egypt, its brave sons and bold ones, surrounded by God’s angels, demanding … their politicians and rulers and those who sat on the throne of opulence, wealth and power to give them bread and pure water to end their hunger and thirst and to live in a house that shelters their families and the sons of the nation, far from rotten slums,” said Rifaat.
“They were chanting ‘peaceful, peaceful’ with their mouths while their stomachs were empty and their strength was failing. Unable to struggle, they screamed ‘be merciful,’ ‘God gives you mercy,’ ‘rescue us and pull us from the torture of poverty and humiliation.’”
MK Benjamin Ben Eliezer (Labor), who was very close to the former president, expressed “deep personal regret” at the decision, adding that he expected “a degree of compassion and mercy” from the court.
“Mubarak is an Egyptian patriot who led his people for 30 years and cared for the Egyptian nation and its political and economic standing”, he said.
Scuffles broke out inside and outside the courtroom after the sentence was handed down by Rifaat. Protesters chanted “False, False, False” and “The people demand the removal of the regime.”
“The people want to cleanse the judiciary,” lawyers chanted inside the courtroom after the verdict. Some raised banners that read, “God’s verdict is execution.”
Rock throwing and fist fights left at least 25 people injured, and a police official said that four people were arrested. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information.
Thousands of riot police and policemen riding horses had cordoned off the building to prevent protesters and relatives of those slain during the uprising from getting too close. Hundreds stood outside, waving Egyptian flags and chanting slogans demanding “retribution.” Some spread Mubarak’s picture on the asphalt and walked over it.
Later, thousands of protesters gathered in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, birthplace of the uprising, and in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria on Egypt’s northern coast. They chanted slogans denouncing the trial as “theatrical” and against the ruling generals who took over for Mubarak, led by his former defense minister. “Execute them, execute them!” chanted the protesters in Alexandria.
Mubarak was the first Arab leader to be tried by his own people in the country.
Mubarak’s verdict came just days after presidential elections boiled down to a June 16-17 contest between Mubarak’s last prime minister and one-time protege Ahmed Shafiq, and Mubarak’s top foe, a Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammed Morsi.
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