CAIRO (Reuters) - Hosni Mubarak has appeared in court lying on a stretcher during his trial, where he faces a verdict on Saturday, but Egypt’s former president is living in a comfortable hospital where he is free to see relatives, walk in the garden and exercise, news reports and a source said this week.
Reuters has confirmed the account in Egyptian newspaper Al-Watan through a source who works at the hospital and requested anonymity due to the sensitivity of the subject.
The newspaper depicted the 84-year-old Mubarak, ousted in an uprising in February 2011, as a cosseted retired official, exercising and swimming as doctors and family attend to his needs at Cairo’s International Medical Center (IMC).
Mubarak occupies a large suite with adjacent rooms for visitors, a swimming pool and a gym outfitted with the latest exercise equipment, Al-Watan said in its report published on Tuesday. It said Mubarak had been visited by Arab leaders of Gulf countries of Kuwait, Oman and the UAE.
The account confirmed reports in other domestic newspapers in the past months that have shown Mubarak, who is formally under arrest, as far more healthy than he appears in the court room, where he lies on his back on a stretcher.
“Mubarak is in excellent health. The former president will likely remain with us even after the verdict comes out,” the hospital source, who has seen the former leader, told Reuters.
The source said Mubarak was free to walk around the garden or swim in a pool, and had a team of doctors including a physiotherapist. Mubarak also received visitors from the Arab world and the ruling military council.
“This is the best place for him. There is a plane and an airstrip at the hospital to allow for safe movement,” the source added.
Mubarak is on trial for complicity in killings of protesters and the verdict could reverberate across an Arab world in the throes of political change. If found guilty, he could face from three years in prison to the death sentence, according to assessments from New York-based Human Rights Watch.
The ruling on Saturday also comes in the middle of a presidential election that pits two polarising candidates against each other: the Muslim Brotherhood, banned under Mubarak, and the deposed leader’s last prime minister.
Mubarak’s critics, including members of parliament, have demanded that he be moved to Torah prison just like his two sons Gamal and Alaa, who are also on trial. But Interior Ministry officials have said the prison was not equipped for Mubarak’s health needs.
“He will not be imprisoned. He will live out his sentence here,” the source said. “There are no arrangements to move him out of here.”
Since he was flown to Cairo from the seaside resort of Sharm al-Sheikh in August 2011 at the start of the trial, Mubarak has resided in the IMC, a large medical compound located on the outskirts of Cairo.
Mubarak’s wife Suzanne has sought to keep him in good spirits by bringing him especially made food or buying him new training suits, the source said. “He does not like the hospital food here,” the source added.
Mubarak chats with his security men and enjoys most the company of his grandchildren, the source said.
His wife and doctors seek to shield Mubarak from often-critical news coverage of his rule and prevent him from watching television or reading papers, which can upset him.
Mubarak was criticised by officials in the military council for failing to appoint a vice president during his three decades of rule, a criticism that has angered him, according to the source. “He feels no one understands what he has done for Egypt.”
Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, who heads the military council, has promised to hand over power to an elected president by July 1.
Editing by Alessandra Rizzo