Hosni Mubarak was ordered to be detained for 15 days winning the ruling army generals a respite from protesters suspicious that they were shielding their former commander from investigation.
Mubarak, driven from presidential office on February 11 by mass demonstrations against his 30-year rule, was taken to the intensive care unit of a hospital in Sharm el-Sheikh on Tuesday with what state media called a “heart crisis” after questioning by investigators.
Reports differed on how serious the illness was. A doctor appointed by the judiciary was examining Mubarak to see if he could be moved to another hospital, a medical source said, Reuters reports.
“The doctor’s check-up is part of the judicial process to determine where to question the ex-president,” the source said.
The public prosecutor had summoned and questioned Mubarak, 82, over the killing of protesters, embezzling of public funds and abuse of power. More than 380 protesters were killed in 18 days of demonstrations that led to Mubarak’s downfall.
His two sons, Alaa and Gamal, have also been questioned as part of the probe and detained, state television said.
“Former President Hosni Mubarak was detained for 15 days for investigation,” state television reported in a brief headline. Judicial sources confirmed the report.
In his first public comment since stepping down, broadcast on Al Arabiya on Sunday, Mubarak denied wrongdoing.
A security source told Reuters he was likely to remain for security reasons in detention in Sharm el-Sheikh, the Red Sea resort where he has been in internal exile since quitting.
A source cited by the official news agency MENA said the former president would be moved from the hospital to a place of detention once his health permits, but the site had yet to be determined.
Al Jazeera television reported earlier that an army helicopter had arrived in Sharm to take him to Cairo. A security source told Reuters “the helicopter has left without him because his health is unstable.”
Half a dozen dark blue state security trucks were parked outside the hospital on Wednesday and roads leading to the building were blocked off by state security, witnesses said.
SON BEING GROOMED
Mubarak’s sons were taken to a prison on the outskirts of Cairo, joining a list of ex-ministers and officials under investigation and held in the same jail, MENA said.
Gamal, 47, Mubarak’s younger son, held a top post in the ruling party. Many Egyptians believed he was being groomed for top office, though both father and son denied any such plan.
“This is a serious step forward in holding the president accountable and ends any suspicion that the state and the military were in cahoots with Mubarak,” said Hassan Nafaa, a political scientist and activist for reform.
Hundreds of thousands of Egyptians protested on Friday in Cairo’s Tahrir Square against delays in trying Mubarak and criticised Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, the army council head who was Mubarak’s defence minister for 20 years.
“The military council moved fast because of the pressure protesters have built up in Tahrir. In the past weeks there has been real criticism of Tantawi and the military council that they are slow and looking after Mubarak as their commander,” said Shadi Ghazali Harb, from a pro-democracy youth movement.
He said plans for a protest this Friday were on hold to see how swiftly the army and prosecutor moved towards a trial.
Political analyst Fahmy Hueidi said: “The army succumbed to people pressure to bring Mubarak and family to justice.”
On Tuesday, soldiers broke up a five-day sit-in at Tahrir Square, the centre of the January uprising. Protesters had vowed to keep up the pressure, but many Egyptians are tired of the protests that have hit the economy and disrupted their lives.
The timing of Mubarak’s illness prompted scepticism among some protesters about the motives of the army, which has pushed for swift elections to hand over power. The army praised and thanked Mubarak when he left office, but protesters criticised him for ruling by emergency law and widening a rich-poor divide.
“We want our money. We want the thief to be tried,” chanted dozens of people near the hospital on Tuesday.
The protesters regrouped on Wednesday but some Bedouin tribesmen attacked and dispersed them, confiscating cameras from photographers, according to medical sources at the hospital who said the Bedouin appeared to be Mubarak supporters.
Diplomats say there is no sign the military wants to hold on in government but say it may loom in the background as the nation’s self-appointed guardian.
Mubarak went to Germany for gall bladder surgery in March 2010. There were often rumours about his health, especially after his last bout of surgery.