June 19 (GIN)–Once considered the modern-day pharaoh of Egypt, ex-President Hosni Mubarak was called “clinically dead” today after suffering a stroke in prison. The 84-year-old disgraced leader had been defibrillated before being transferred to hospital from the prison where he has been held since being sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of Egyptian protesters.

As confusion and tension built over the day, Egypt’s ruling Armed Forces maintained that Mubarak was hanging on to life. “He is not clinically dead as reported, but his health is deteriorating and he is in critical condition,” said Gen. Mamdouh Shaheen.

Fouad Ajami, a senior fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, urged caution. “There’s a great Arab expression I like that asks the following question: When you’re told that someone is dead, you say, ‘Is he dead and buried or just dead?’ I think we are in the middle of this kind of situation.”

Mubarak had faced the gallows, with the prosecution in his case calling for the death penalty.

His tumultuous fall from grace sent shock waves across the Middle East and beyond when he announced his resignation on Feb. 11 after an 18-day popular revolt. He survived 10 attempts on his life over the years, but in the end, it was the people who brought down the Egyptian leader. The military seized power after his resignation.

Despite a tightening grip on Egypt’s government, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces received some $1.3 billion in military aid in March, despite its failure to meet pro-democracy goals. The Obama administration says U.S. national security requires continued military assistance there.

As the ex-president slipped in and out of consciousness, hundreds of thousands of Egyptians rallied across the country, protesting recent moves by the generals to consolidate power despite elections that appear to have been won by the Muslim Brotherhood candidate, Mohammed Morsi.

While acknowledging Morsi as the possible winner, the military has moved pre-emptively to limit his authority, granting itself legislative powers, control of the economy and the right to pick who will draft the next constitution.