Former president Hosni Mubarak is in a full coma after his health suddenly deteriorated," Egyptian state TV reported Sunday night, July 17, shortly after a cabinet reshuffle was carried out in Cairo to placate rising dissent five months since his overthrow.
But the reports of his state of health are conflicting: Lawyers say he went into a coma after a stroke, while the director of the Sharm el Sheikh hospital denies this.
Aged 83 and suffering from cancer, Mubarak has been confined to a Sharm el-Sheikh hospital since April when he suffered a heart attack during questioning. He and his sons face trial on August 3 on charges of corruption and murder.
The cabinet reshuffle came as Egypt sank ever more deeply into lawlessness and economic stagnation.
City streets are plagued by robbers and outlaws. Many districts have set up vigilante militias to protect life and property. Tens of thousands continue to rally in Tahrir Square against the new rulers, the Supreme Council of Revolutionary Forces’ (SCAF) – and not only in Cairo, but in Suez, Ismailia and Alexandria. They say they are staging what they call "the second Egyptian revolution" – this one against the 25 generals led by Field Marshall Muhammad Tantawi, whom they accuse of stealing the revolution from the Egyptian people and putting the Mubarak regime back in place.
Whether or not the ousted president survives the next few hours is immaterial for the Egyptian street. DEBKAfile's Egyptian sources report that the demonstrators of Tahrir Square no longer believe the military junta can save the country. They suspect the generals are deliberately letting the situation deteriorate, said one opposition source, "to generate anarchy as the pretext for postponing the promised general and presidential elections, already put off once from September to November,"
"The junta wants to be sure of winning the election before it fixes on the date," he said.
Grievances are rife: SCAF heads are accused of having 10,000 political activists detained in the last two months and subjecting some to torture – "just like in the old days." The protesters don't believe the Mubaraks will ever be put on trial and allege that to officials of the former regime are given derisory sentences for corruption and the authorities refrain from confiscating their ill-gotten property.
"The revolution triumphed, Mubarak was toppled, but the machinery of his regime lives on," said another protester.
As well as speedier reforms, the protesters want an end to what they say are delays in trying former regime officials responsible for killings during the revolt.
There were two main driving forces for the millions of protesters who forced Mr Mubarak from power: a lack of jobs due to an economy that favoured Mr Mubarak's cronies and the brutality of the state's security services, which included torture.
The economy has deteriorated since then. Much of the economy relies on tourism and tourists remain concerned about Egypt.
On the second issue, much of the public is angry that figures who were such key players in the former regime remain in power.
Mr Mubarak is due to face trial on August 3 over corruption and the killings of hundreds of protesters in the lead-up to his ouster.
Reports of his ill health have been greeted with great scepticism as many people believe they will be used as an excuse to avoid trial.
Many Egyptians are concerned that key figures in the military will allow this to occur, as they also have reasons to fear a trial in which their own role in propping up Mr Mubarak could be exposed.
Another concern is that after almost 30 years of having no political parties other than Mr Mubarak's, alternative parties that may want to contest a free election do not have enough time to organise.
There is a fear that only two organisations have any real structure - Mr Mubarak's National Democratic Party, which could reappear under a different name; and the Muslim Brotherhood, which, although banned under Mr Mubarak, ran candidates as independents and has a structure of sorts.