Egypt’s ousted pres­i­dent Morsi dies in court

The News Tribune - - Front Page - BY SAMY MAGDY As­so­ci­ated Press

Egypt’s first demo­crat­i­cally elected pres­i­dent, Is­lamist leader Mo­hammed Morsi who was ousted by the mil­i­tary in 2013 af­ter a year in of­fice, col­lapsed in court while on trial Mon­day and died, state TV and his fam­ily said.

The 67-year-old Morsi had just ad­dressed the court, speak­ing from the glass cage he is kept in dur­ing ses­sions and warn­ing that he had “many se­crets” he could re­veal, a ju­di­cial of­fi­cial said. A few min­utes after­ward, he col­lapsed in the cage, the of­fi­cial said, speak­ing on con­di­tion of anonymity be­cause he was not au­tho­rized to talk to the press.

In his fi­nal com­ments, he con­tin­ued to in­sist he was Egypt’s le­git­i­mate pres­i­dent, de­mand­ing a spe­cial tri­bunal, one of his de­fense lawyers, Kamel Madour told the As­so­ci­ated Press. State TV said Morsi died be­fore he could be taken to the hos­pi­tal.

Morsi’s Mus­lim Brother­hood ac­cused the gov­ern­ment of “as­sas­si­nat­ing” him through years of poor prison con­di­tions. In a state­ment, the group de­manded an in­ter­na­tional in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Morsi’s death and called on Egyp­tians to protest out­side Egypt’s em­bassy across the world.

Morsi, who was known to have di­a­betes, had been im­pris­oned since his 2013 ouster, of­ten in soli­tary con­fine­ment and barred from vis­i­tors – his fam­ily was al­lowed to visit only three times dur­ing that time. Egypt’s chief prose­cu­tor said Morsi’s body would

be ex­am­ined to de­ter­mine the cause of his death.

It was a dra­matic end for a fig­ure who was cen­tral in the twists and turns taken by Egypt since its “rev­o­lu­tion” – from the pro-democ­racy upris­ing that in 2011 ousted the coun­try’s long­time au­thor­i­tar­ian leader, Hosni Mubarak, through con­tro­ver­sial Is­lamist rule and now back to a tight grip un­der the dom­i­na­tion of mil­i­tary men.

The Mus­lim Brother­hood, Egypt’s most pow­er­ful Is­lamist group, won the elec­tions held af­ter Mubarak’s fall, con­sid­ered the first free votes the coun­try had seen. First, they gained a ma­jor­ity in par­lia­ment, then Morsi squeaked to vic­tory in pres­i­den­tial elec­tions held in 2012, be­com­ing the first civil­ian to hold the of­fice.

Crit­ics ac­cused the Brother­hood of us­ing vi­o­lence against op­po­nents and seeking to mo­nop­o­lize power and Is­lamize the state. Mas­sive protests grew against their rule, un­til the mil­i­tary – led by then-De­fense Min­is­ter, Ab­del-Fat­tah el-Sissi – ousted Morsi in July

2013, dis­solved par­lia­ment and even­tu­ally banned the Brother­hood as a “ter­ror­ist group.”

El-Sissi was elected pres­i­dent and re-elected in 2018 in votes hu­man rights groups sharply crit­i­cized as un­demo­cratic. He has waged a fe­ro­cious crack­down that crushed the Brother­hood but also al­most all other dis­sent, ar­rest­ing tens of thou­sands, ban­ning protests and si­lenc­ing most crit­i­cism in the me­dia.

Since his ouster, Morsi and other Brother­hood lead­ers have been put on mul­ti­ple and lengthy tri­als. Morsi was sen­tenced to 20 years in prison on charges of or­der­ing Brother­hood mem­bers to break up a protest against him, re­sult­ing in deaths. Mul­ti­ple cases are still pend­ing. Mon­day’s ses­sion was part of a re­trial, held next to Cairo’s Tora Prison, on charges of es­pi­onage with the Pales­tinian Ha­mas mil­i­tant group.

Morsi was held in a spe­cial wing in Tora nick­named Scor­pion Prison. Rights groups say its con­di­tions fall far below Egyp­tian and in­ter­na­tional stan­dards.

In con­trast, Mubarak was al­lowed to stay in a mil­i­tary hos­pi­tal dur­ing tri­als on var­i­ous charges re­lated to killing the pro­test­ers in

2011 upris­ing – of which he was even­tu­ally cleared.

Sarah Leah Whit­son, Mid­dle East di­rec­tor with the Hu­man Rights Watch, said in a tweet that Morsi’s death was “ter­ri­ble but en­tirely pre­dictable” given the gov­ern­ment “fail­ure to al­low him ad­e­quate med­i­cal care, much less fam­ily vis­its.”

Mo­hammed Su­dan, lead­ing mem­ber of the Mus­lim Brother­hood in Lon­don, said Morsi was banned from re­ceiv­ing medicine or vis­its and there was lit­tle in­for­ma­tion about his health con­di­tion.

“This is pre­med­i­tated mur­der. This is slow death,” he said.

Free­dom and Jus­tice, the Brother­hood’s po­lit­i­cal arm, said in a state­ment on its Face­book page that prison con­di­tions led to Morsi’s death in what amounted to “as­sas­si­na­tion.”

The ju­di­cial of­fi­cial said Morsi had asked to speak to the court dur­ing Mon­day’s ses­sion. The judge per­mit­ted it, and Morsi gave a speech say­ing he had “many se­crets” that, if he told them, he would be re­leased, but he added that he wasn’t telling them be­cause it would harm Egypt’s na­tional se­cu­rity.

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