Suzanne Thabet Mubarak was hospitalized with severe chest pains after authorities came to arrest her in connection with a corruption inquiry into her finances.
The former First Lady of Egypt was taken to a military hospital from her home in the resort town of Sharm El Sheikh. Her husband, ousted President Hosni Mubarak, is believed to be at the same hospital. He was arrested more than two weeks ago, and also suffers from a heart ailment.
An official said that the Mubaraks would be taken to a prison in Cairo once they are fit to be transported.
The director of the hospital said early Saturday that Mrs. Mubarak was in unstable condition.
Her sons, Gamal and Ala’a, are being held in Cairo’s notorious Tora Prison, where Hosni Mubarak dispatched hundreds of political opponents during his 33-year presidency. They are also being held on corruption charges.
It was a humiliating situation for Mrs. Mubarak. The detention order on Friday came a day after the 70-year-old former First Lady was questioned on charges that she took advantage of her husband's position to enrich herself.
Egypt’s Illicit Gains Authority (IGA) had questioned the former president and his wife for the first time on Thursday, over allegations they enriched themselves illegally, the MENA state news agency reported.
The new development means that the former president, the former First Lady, and two of their sons are now being held in custody—surely an unprecedented situation in the Arab world.
An investigation team went to the Sinai resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh where Mr. Mubarak and his wife Suzanne are staying, the agency said, quoting Assem el-Gohari, a senior justice ministry official.
“A team of investigators from the illicit gains department headed by Khaled Selim is currently questioning the former president and his wife” in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, MENA reported.
It was the first time the Mubaraks have been questioned by this branch of the justice ministry, which is looking into “charges that they used their position to acquire wealth illegally,” the office said.
Mr. Mubarak, who is under arrest in a Sharm el-Sheikh hospital, has already been interrogated by the state prosecutor’s office over several charges including ordering the shooting of anti-regime protesters.
He was first detained on April 13 and his detention extended twice, most recently on Tuesday.
Former parliamentarian Mostafa Bakri had submitted notification to the attorney general that Mr. Mubarak’s family had 27 different bank accounts, including 10 for his son Mr. Alaa, eight for his other son Mr. Gamal, and six for his wife Suzanne.
Meanwhile, prosecutors froze accounts of Mrs. Mubarak’s brother Mounir Thabet and banned him from travel, as he is being investigated in two cases of profiteering and seizing public funds.
Egypt’s anti-graft agency is also investigating the wealth of other former officials as well, including Chief of Presidential Staff Zakaria Azmi, former Parliament Speaker Fathi Sorour, former Shura Council Speaker Safwat al-Sherif, and Mr. Mubarak’s relatives Magdi Rasekh and Mahmoud al-Gammal.
Mr. Mubarak’s two sons Mr. Ala’a and Mr. Gamal, along with dozens of officials and businessmen associated with the former regime, are being detained in Cairo's notorious Tora Prison that housed political dissidents during the Mubarak era. The former president will be reportedly incarcerated there once he’s fit to travel to Cairo.
Mrs. Mubarak was interrogated at the hospital in Sharm el-Sheikh where her 83-year old husband, who also suffers from heart problems, has been held.
The former first lady was liked among Egyptians and gained their sympathy on at least two occasions: she was recovering from an illness that left her looking frail and out of the public eye and when her grandson died in 2009, but it is only in the last decade when she surfaced as a conspicuous and a powerful mover in Egyptian politics.
Educated with a master’s degree from the American University in Cairo, Mrs. Mubarak is a far cry from Tunisia’s much reviled former First Lady Leila Trabelsi, a one-time hairdresser who rose to become Tunisia’s most influential woman.
An April 2006 US diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks said that “conventional wisdom holds that Suzanne Mubarak is her younger son’s most ardent booster,” citing she was often photographed at public events with Gamal and that she was said to have kept the senior Mubarak from naming a vice president who would have ordinarily succeeded him.
She was believed to be a strong backer of her son Gamal’s efforts to succeed his father; she also strongly supported the business activities of Ala’a.
Mrs. Mubarak was also known to have a say in the promotion of senior officials, and liked to be called “Hanem,” or “Madam,” as institutions and schools carrying her name mushroomed in recent years.
It was only in Hosni Mubarak’s later years in power that stories of her formidable influence in behind-the-scenes decision-making surfaced.
(Dina Al-Shibeeb, an editor and writer at Al Arabiya, can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Mustapha Ajbaili, an editor at Al Arabiya can be reached at: Mustapha.email@example.com.)