CAIRO – Ousted Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak may have cancer, his defense lawyer said Monday, two months ahead of the former leader's trial for allegedly ordering the killing of anti-government protesters.
Mubarak, who was ousted on Feb. 11 after 18 days of mass protests, has been hospitalized with heart troubles since April in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh. He is scheduled to go on trial Aug. 3 on charges of ordering the killing of protesters during the demonstrations. If convicted, he could be sentenced to death.
The ex-president's lawyer, Farid el-Deeb, said Mubarak underwent "critical surgery" in Heidelberg, Germany, last year to remove his gallbladder and part of his pancreas, which were cancerous.
"There is evidence suggesting that there is a recurrence of cancer and that it has reached the stomach," said el-Deeb told The Associated Press. He called Mubarak's condition "horrible," and said the former leader "doesn't eat and he loses conscious quite often."
The former president's health is a highly politicized issue in Egypt, and Mubarak's prosecution has been complicated by concerns over his health.
The ex-leader has been questioned in the hospital, but an order from prosecutors to transfer him to a Cairo prison during the investigation was overturned on the grounds that the health facilities there were insufficient to treat Mubarak's ailments.
Even the location of the former president's trial remains unclear after a May report by a government-appointed panel of physicians determined that he is too ill to be jailed in prison while awaiting his appearance in court.
That report stated that Mubarak was suffering from heart troubles and had "tumors" in his pancreas removed, but did not specify whether the tumors were malignant. It also said that Mubarak can't leave his bed without assistance.
El-Deeb said that he presented another comprehensive medical report to Egypt's prosecutor general on Thursday showing that Mubarak has a recurrence of cancer. However, el-Deeb declined to provide a copy of the report to AP.
Activists pushing for Mubarak to face trial see remarks about his allegedly deteriorating condition as a ruse to sway public opinion and revive calls to grant the ousted president amnesty.
In May, an Egyptian paper ran an unconfirmed report that the Egyptian military rulers were considering granting Mubarak amnesty in return for an apology to the nation for any wrongdoing.
The report sparked a wave of criticism and a mass protest in Cairo's Tahrir Square dubbed the "Friday to Reject the apology." That forced the country's military rulers to issue a denial and distance themselves from Mubarak's trial.
During the protests, youth groups warned that granting amnesty to Mubarak would only spark a new revolution. At least 846 protesters were killed during the 18-day revolt, which brought an end to Mubarak's 29-year rule.
Mubarak has been charged with conspiring with the former security chief and other senior police officers -- already on trial in a criminal court -- "to commit premeditated murder, along with attempted murder of those who participated in the peaceful protests around Egypt."
The charges say Mubarak and the other officials were involved in "inciting some policemen and officers to shoot the victims, running some of them over to kill them, and terrorizing others."