October 16, 2007 Special Dispatch No. 1733

Egyptian Opposition Paper Editor Stands Trial for Article on Mubarak's Failing Health

October 16, 2007
Egypt | Special Dispatch No. 1733

In a recent article, editor of the Egyptian opposition paper Al-Dustour Ibrahim 'Issa cited rumors about the failing health of Egyptian President Mubarak. Following the article's publication, 'Issa was summoned for questioning[1] by the authorities, and was subsequently charged with "deliberately spreading false rumors harmful to the public." [2]

The following are excerpts from the article:[3]

"In Egypt, the President is God, and Gods Are Never Ill"

"In Egypt, the President is God, and gods are never ill. That is why President Mubarak, his associates, and his hypocrite [cronies] are concealing the fact of his illness, leaving the country to rumors and guesses. They do not talk, but mislead the public about the state of the president's health. [I believe that] the president does not suffer from a severe illness, but only from the illness of [old] age. But even if he has [nothing more than] a bout of flu, the public has [the right] to know about it.

"The problem is that the West knows [the state of the president's health]. The White House [receives] updates [about it] almost on a daily basis. Tel Aviv knows [about it as well, since it] follows [reports provided by other] Western sources that know details about the President's illness and about his trips [abroad] for treatment. The European intelligence apparatuses [arrange] for him to come and receive treatment [in Europe]... [Only] the Egyptians are [kept] in the dark.

"If the president had not fainted during a televised speech a few years ago, nobody would have known [anything] about the state of his health. Had he not gone to Germany for a long course of treatment, nobody would have mentioned his disease. The [logical] conclusion is that Mubarak's country wants to present the president as a holy man who can do no wrong, who is not subject to oversight, and who has no rivals. This necessarily means that he cannot be ill. More than that, nobody can conceive that he may one day die like an ordinary mortal...

"The Future Of Egypt Hangs On Emotional Decisions Taken by the President at a Time of Illness"

"The matter [of the president's illness] affects both the present and the future of our country. Everyone in [Egypt] and abroad knows that [Mubarak's] family – and in particular his wife, Mrs. Susan Mubarak – has long been urging him to resign and to let the presidency pass to Gamal Mubarak while he is still alive [and able] to supervise [the transfer of power]. The only one objecting to this move is the president [himself], whether out of a desire to cling to his seat and stay in it as long as fate allows, or whether out of fear of causing unrest among the people and among the generals whom he has favored [and cultivated]. [Moreover], the president fears for the life of his son once he decides to transfer the presidency to him...

"This means that the future of Egypt hangs on emotional decisions taken by the president at a time of illness. In addition, his illness means that he is [periodically] absent from the helm, which provides various elements and figures inside and outside the presidential palace with an opportunity to do as they please.

"Perhaps the Frequent Rumors About the President's Illness are Aimed at Establishing [Gamal's] Ascension to Power"

"Moreover, it is possible that the wave of arrests of [Muslims] Brotherhood [members], the harsh security clamp down on privately [owned] newspapers and the postponement of the elections within the NDP... have all been orchestrated by [Gamal Mubarak] as [part of] an onslaught on various sectors in the country. Perhaps the frequent rumors about the president's illness are aimed at establishing [Gamal's] ascension to power as a done deal that nobody can oppose – not to mention prevent.

"According to some medical sources, Mubarak is suffering from a cardiovascular problem which causes his brain to be starved of blood for [several] minutes at a time, and thus causes him to lose consciousness for a period of [several] seconds to [several] minutes. If this is true, it may explain the rumor that the president was seen swaying on his feet and shivering during one of his visits to an official institution.

"You can call your family doctor, or the doctor of one of your relatives or neighbors, and ask him about the effects of a cardiovascular disease on a man of the President's age, and about the implications [of this disease]. I am certain that it is not a fatal illness, and that a man can live with it for many years. [However], the question is whether it affects the country. Doesn't it require the president to take a break [from his duties]?

"I Fear... That the President's Illness Will Exacerbate the Illness of Egypt, Halt Its Progress, and Make It Develop Bedsores That Will... Paralyze It"

"Gamal [Mubarak] thinks that the president should rest and transfer the presidency to him. Other circles in the country are very anxious – afraid to keep silent but also afraid to act. [Still] other circles want everybody to remain quiet and restrained while they hold some of us in prison and threaten us. What I fear most is that the president's illness will exacerbate the illness of Egypt, halt its progress, and make it develop bedsores that will impede [its functioning] and paralyze it."

[1] Al-Ahram (Egypt), September 4, 2007; Al-Misriyoun (Egypt), September 4, 2007.

[2] Al-Gumhouriyya (Egypt), September 13, 2007.

[3] Al-Dustour (Egypt), August 30, 2007.

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