Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has refused to eat for four days, has lost weight and is weak, his chief doctor said Tuesday, increasing speculation that the ousted leader won't stand trial next week as scheduled.
Any delay in Mubarak's trial would likely further enflame tensions between the military council ruling Egypt since Mubarak's fall and protesters frustrated with the pace of change. Many Egyptians already accuse the army of dragging its feet in prosecuting former regime figures and officials accused of killing protesters during the 18-day uprising that toppled Mubarak on Feb. 11.
Clashes erupted last week in Cairo after thousands of protesters tried to march on the military's headquarters and were met by men with knives, stick and clubs. Hundreds were injured before security forces dispersed the crowds with clouds of tear gas.
On Tuesday, Assam Azzam, the head of Mubarak's medical team, said the former leader was weak and had lost weight after refusing to eat for four days.
Doctors at the hospital in the Red Sea resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh where Mubarak has been under house arrest since April said the former president consumes liquids, but only when pressured by the medical team or his wife.
"Mubarak gives in to pressure from the doctors more than he does to pressure from Suzanne Mubarak," Azzam said.
The doctors could feed him intravenously if his condition deteriorates, Azzam said. He added that the biggest threat to Mubarak's health is severe depression.
"We worry that his bad psychological state will affect his physical state," Azzam said.
Mubarak, who ruled Egypt unchallenged for 29 years, is set to stand trial on Aug. 3 for charges of corruption and ordering the killing of protesters during the uprising, during which nearly 850 people were killed.
Mubarak's sons — one-time heir apparent Gamal and wealthy businessman Alaa — are also to stand trial that day, along with former Interior Minister Habib al-Adly and six of his aides.
Rumors about Mubarak's health have been rife. Critics suspect they are a ruse to prevent Mubarak from standing trial, or even to sway public opinion toward granting him amnesty.
While there has been no official declaration, local media have reported that a courtroom has been prepared in Sharm el-Sheikh — a town usually known for its beaches and snorkeling — to hold the trial.
On Tuesday, Mohammed Nagib, security chief for south Sinai, said he had received no request from the Interior Ministry to begin planning security for the trial, which is likely to attract huge attention from the media and public alike.
Nagib said that if the trials were to be held in the resort town, the ministry would have to send security from elsewhere "so that we can ensure security for this historic trial."