Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is critically ill and may be close to death, reports from Cairo suggest.
Hosni Mubarak is said to have had a stroke and was moved from prison to an army hospital, where he is on life support. Initial reports said he was “clinically dead”.
It comes amid protests over disputed presidential election results and new powers for the ruling military.
Hosni Mubarak, 84, was ousted in last year’s uprising, and jailed for life for his role in the death of protesters.
There have been frequent reports since then that his health has deteriorated, many of which have proved wrong.
Through the night, supporters and opponents gathered outside the Maadi military hospital, where the former president is being treated.
Reports that he was clinically dead have been categorically denied by the ruling military council, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF).
Meanwhile, tens of thousands of people protested in Cairo’s Tahrir Square against a move by the SCAF to assume new powers.
The rally was called by the Muslim Brotherhood, which is also claiming victory for its candidate Mohammed Mursi in last weekend’s presidential elections.
His rival Ahmed Shafiq, a former prime minister under Mubarak, has also said he has won.
Results are expected to be announced on Thursday.
The Muslim Brotherhood has also vowed to retry Hosni Mubarak once in power, and insists that he should face the death penalty.
As Egyptians voted, the generals dissolved parliament and claimed all legislative power for themselves.
Activists have described the moves as a “military coup”.
On Tuesday, Hosni Mubarak – who ruled Egypt for 30 years – was transferred by helicopter to intensive care at the Maadi armed forces hospital after suffering a stroke, state media said.
Correspondents say the hospital is better equipped to deal with such conditions than the prison hospital where he was being treated.
The former leader is now said to be unconscious and on life support.
Doctors are said to have used a defibrillator on him several times. The device delivers an electric shock to the heart to try to re-establish a normal heartbeat.
There are lots of police officers currently deployed outside the hospital.
There are also small groups of people – both Mubarak’s supporters and protesters against him – who have gathered outside the building, our correspondent says.
One woman, a supporter, was almost shaking with emotion and saying “I love him”.
Another supporter, a man, stood holding a poster of Hosni Mubarak.
“He is my father. I love him more than my father. The Muslim Brotherhood are criminals. They have destroyed our country. Mubarak kept us in peace for 30 years,” he said.
A group of anti-Mubarak young men responded by shouting: “We are poor, and he did nothing for us. His family ate meat and we were starving.”
“I’m ready to hammer his grave with my shoe,” another protester added.
Egyptians will be very skeptical about any reports about the former president’s health.
Before Hosni Mubarak’s trial began, his lawyer said he was in a coma, only for the former president to appear – alive and conscious, if not particularly well – in court.
Now there will be fears that the state of Mubarak’s health could be used as a distraction, as Egypt waits for the result of the hotly disputed presidential election.
However, the latest reports are better sourced than any before.