Hosni Mubarak spent his first night of incarceration angrily cursing prison guards and insisting on wearing blue pyjamas instead of the regulation uniform, it emerged yesterday as Egypt braced itself for a week of further unrest before this month's presidential election run-off.
Revelling in the novelty of trashing the former autocrat, Egypt's newspapers were yesterday crammed with lurid details about Mubarak's spectacular fall from grace.
According to the independent daily Al Shorouk, Mubarak, who was sentenced to life in prison on Saturday for complicity in the killing of hundreds of protesters during last year's uprising against his rule, fainted three times after arriving at Cairo's Tora Prison, an institution that was once notorious for holding political detainees who had fallen foul of the government.
Al Shorouk said it took three hours to persuade Mubarak to leave the helicopter that had brought him to the prison. Quoting an anonymous source, it reported that the former President lost consciousness after prison authorities refused to grant him access to the medics he had used at his previous military hospital.
Reportedly surrounded by "gloating" prison officers, he at one point cried out "I am oppressed" before later loudly asking how, as commander of Egypt's army, he was being treated like a common criminal. After being transferred to the prison hospital, the source reported Mubarak's agitation when he was presented with his prison uniform by a guard. "Mubarak looked at him angrily and became agitated," claimed the source. "He advised the prison doctors not to force him to wear it."
Al-Wafd newspaper, the official publication of the liberal Al-Wafd Party, claimed that Mubarak insisted on being able to wear his own pair of blue pyjamas – and then promptly told all of the prison nurses to leave his bedside.
Under a gloating headline, "Mubarak: the president of the Republic of Tora", the paper reported that he "tried to deal with the prison administration" as if he were still the leader of Egypt.
The reports came as Egypt geared up for the final round of presidential elections, scheduled for 16 to 17 June. Fighting to become the first democratically elected president of Egypt are two candidates who command loyal constituencies but inspire deep loathing among opponents. The Muslim Brotherhood's Mohamed Morsi has tried to allay the fears of secular Egyptians by promising to champion Christians in government and protect women's rights, but many activists accuse his organisation of a hidden agenda.
His opponent, Ahmed Shafik, is admired by voters desperate for a no-nonsense strongman. Yet activists believe the former air force chief will reverse many of the gains from the uprising.
Leading political coalitions have organised two rallies in Cairo today that are due to be led by high-profile presidential candidates, Hamdeen Sabahi and Abdel Moneim Abel Fotouh.