Egypt official says Mubarak's wife feeling better

By ASHRAF SWEILAM | May 14, 2011 | 9:13 AM EDT

FILE - In this Feb. 19, 2003 file photo, Suzanne Mubarak, wife of Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak, smiles at the Free University Berlin. Egyptian authorities have ordered the detention of Suzanne Mubarak, wife of deposed President Hosni Mubarak, the government-run MENA news service says. The move on Friday May 13, 2011 comes a day after the government reported that Mubarak and his wife were questioned over suspicions they illegally amassed vast wealth. (AP Photo/Franka Bruns, File)

SHARM EL-SHEIKH, Egypt (AP) — Egypt's ex-first lady Suzanne Mubarak has responded well to treatment for "a panic attack" she suffered after being told she would be detained by the government for further questioning on corruption allegations, a hospital official said Saturday.

The official said the 70-year-old wife of ousted leader Hosni Mubarak was visited Saturday by a cardiologist who found "noticeable improvement in her condition."

He told The Associated Press that Mrs. Mubarak on Friday "suffered from a sudden panic attack after hearing that she will be sent to prison." This, he said, aggravated her chronic high blood pressure and caused severe heart pain.

The hospital official spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not allowed to release the information before further tests were conducted.

Mrs. Mubarak is at Sharm el-Sheikh hospital, where her 83-year-old husband also is being treated for a heart condition.

The former president had been questioned several times about allegations that he illegally amassed vast wealth, but Mrs. Mubarak was interrogated on Thursday for the first time on charges she took advantage of her husband's position to enrich herself.

The Mubaraks and other members of the former regime have been the subject of legal efforts to bring them to trial since the ex-president was forced to resign Feb. 11 after a popular uprising.

On Friday, when she was told she would be held for 15 days for further questioning — a move that could have sent her immediately to jail — she fainted. Doctors put her in intensive care after she complained of heart pain, the hospital's director, Dr. Mohammed Fatahallah, said.

A security official said on Friday that Mrs. Mubarak will remain in the hospital for the time being but was expected to be moved eventually to a women's prison in Cairo.

Once a low-key first lady known for her focus on women and children rights, Mrs. Mubarak had in the last decade become a powerful mover in Egyptian politics.

She was a strong backer of her son Gamal's efforts to succeed his father as well as another son Alaa's business activities. She was known to have a say in the promotion of senior officials.

An April 2006 U.S. diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks said that "conventional wisdom holds that Suzanne Mubarak is her younger son's most ardent booster," pointing out that she often was photographed at public events with Gamal and that she was said to have kept the senior Mubarak from naming a vice president.

"Her power and influence, many argue, are keys to Gamal's viability," said the cable.

Protesters during the 18-day uprising blamed her for setting the country's political course.

Many stalwarts of Mubarak's regime — including his sons, the prime minister and the heads of parliament's two chambers — already are in prison on allegations of corruption, mismanagement of state funds and firing on protesters.

Mubarak has denied allegations of corruption leveled against him.

The Mubaraks are believed to have amassed great wealth, and the state news agency MENA reported that Mrs. Mubarak was questioned by government prosecutors about 20 million Egyptian pounds ($3.3 million) held in her name in one of the Cairo banks as well as a number of luxury villas.

One of Mrs. Mubarak's most vaunted projects was the rebuilding of the Alexandria Library. She was asked about allegations she took personal advantage of funds coming to that library and used her charity organizations as a front to amass wealth, Egyptian media have reported.

The Mubaraks have been staying in Sharm el-Sheikh since he stepped down in February. She had been going back and forth between the hospital and their villa, which has an estimated value of 36 million pounds ($6 million).

Last month, the country's police chief recommended that Mubarak not be moved from the hospital until his health stabilized after he also collapsed as his investigation began. In addition to being treated for heart problems, Mubarak underwent gallbladder surgery in Germany last year.