CAIRO Egyptian former President Hosni Mubarak, hospitalised since April and due to stand trial in August, is in a coma, his lawyer said on Sunday, although state television said the hospital director had denied the report.
Another medical source told Reuters that Mubarak, 83, occasionally slipped into a coma but said his condition was stable. His health has been subject to frequent speculation in the Egyptian media, gaining momentum in the run-up to his Aug. 3 trial.
Protesters have been camped out in Cairo's Tahrir Square since July 8 and have protested in other Egyptian cities. Their demands have included calls for the military council ruling Egypt to speed up Mubarak's trial.
The former president faces charges of abuse of power and killing protesters. More than 840 were killed in the 18 days of demonstrations that led to his ouster on Feb. 11.
"I was informed about the sudden deterioration in Mubarak's health and I am now on my way to Sharm el-Sheikh. All that I know so far is that the president is in a full coma," Mubarak's lawyer Farid el-Deeb told Reuters. He did not give more details.
Deeb said in June that Mubarak was suffering from cancer, although a government minister later appeared to play down that report.
Some Egyptians have questioned Mubarak's illness, seeing it as a ploy for the army to avoid putting on trial the decorated former air force commander who ruled Egypt for 30 years.
"The news that comes every now and then about him being in a bad condition is designed to gain people's sympathy, especially now with the public demanding that he go to a jail in Cairo and face trial in Cairo, not in his hospital," political analyst and activist Hassan Nafaa said.
Mubarak had generally enjoyed good health in office. He underwent gallbladder surgery in Germany in March 2010 but he had appeared to make a full recovery. When in office, officials routinely dismissed talk of ill health including cancer reports.
(Writing by Edmund Blair, editing by Elizabeth Piper)