CAIRO (AP) — 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 pushed out of power on Feb. 11 after 18 days of mass demonstrations, 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 for the deaths of protesters during the uprising against his 29-year rule. If convicted, he could face the death penalty.
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," el-Deeb told The Associated Press. He called Mubarak's condition "horrible," and said the former leader "doesn't eat and he loses consciousness quite often."
He added that the possible recurrence of cancer is a result of Mubarak failing to carry out a medical checkup in Germany, every four months. "This led to complications," he said.
Mubarak's health is a highly politicized issue in Egypt, and his prosecution has been complicated by concerns over his condition.
Prosecutors have questioned Mubarak in the hospital, but an order to transfer him to a Cairo prison during the investigation was overturned on the grounds that prison health facilities were inadequate to treat Mubarak's ailments.
Even the location of the former president's trial remains unclear after a report by a government-appointed panel of physicians determined in May that he is too ill to be held in prison while awaiting trial.
That report stated Mubarak was suffering from heart troubles and confirmed he had "tumors" in his pancreas removed, but it did not specify whether the tumors were malignant. It also said that Mubarak can't leave his bed without assistance.
El-Deeb said he presented a second comprehensive medical report to Egypt's prosecutor general on Thursday showing that Mubarak is suffering from a recurrence of cancer. El-Deeb declined to provide a copy of the report to AP.
Activists pushing for Mubarak to face trial view 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 public outcry and a mass protest in Cairo's Tahrir Square — the epicenter of the Egyptian revolution — 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.
Youth groups have warned that granting Mubarak amnesty would only spark a new revolution.
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."
At least 846 protesters were killed during the 18-day revolt that ousted Mubarak from power.
Mubarak's sons, Alaa and Gamal, are being held in Cairo's Tora prison while they are investigated on charges ranging from corruption to squandering public funds to ordering the violent suppression of anti-government demonstration.
For years, Mubarak's health was a tightly guarded secret, and each flare-up threw the country into uncertainty because of concerns about a transition of power in Egypt. He had not vice president, and no clear successor.
Following Mubarak's surgery in Germany last year, Egypt's government stressed that doctors removed benign tumors from his gallbladder. Egyptian state TV broadcast also footage of Mubarak speaking to his doctors in an attempt to assure Egyptians that his condition was stable.
The president's health was such a taboo topic that in 2008, the editor in chief of an Egyptian daily was sentenced to two months in prison on charges of insulting Mubarak after he reported about the president's health. Mubarak later pardoned him.