Egypt’s former President Mohamed Morsi died in a kangaroo court Monday (June 17).
The public prosecutor said the 67-year-old Morsi collapsed in a defendants’ cage in the courtroom and was pronounced dead in hospital.
Morsi had a history of health issues, including diabetes and liver and kidney disease. He had suffered from medical neglect during his imprisonment, compounded by the poor conditions in jail.
There have been various reports over the years that Morsi had been mistreated and tortured in jail, with activists saying on Monday his death should be seen in context of the Egyptian authorities’ systematic isolation and mistreatment of political detainees.
“The government of Egypt today bears responsibility for his death, given their failure to provide him with adequate medical care or basic prisoner rights,” Human Rights Watch said in a statement to Al Jazeera.
Independent Detention Review Panel
Last year, a report by three British members of parliament, under the Independent Detention Review Panel, warned that the lack of medical treatment could result in Morsi’s “premature death”.
In a statement released after Morsi’s death, Crispin Blunt, the panel’s chairman, said his death in custody was representative of Egypt’s inability to treat prisoners in accordance with both Egyptian and international law.
“The Egyptian government has a duty to explain his unfortunate death and there must be proper accountability for his treatment in custody. We found culpability for torture rests not only with direct perpetrators but those who are responsible for or acquiesce in it,” he said in a statement.
“The only step now is a reputable independent international investigation.”
Throughout his imprisonment, Morsi was only allowed three visits from his family.
The first was in November 2013, and the second, which only his wife and daughter were allowed to see him, was in June 2017.
The final visit where his entire family was permitted to see him in the presence of security forces was in September 2018.
The former president’s son, Abdullah Mohamed Morsi, told Reuters news agency that the family did not know the location of his body. He added that the authorities had refused to allow Morsi be buried at his family’s cemetery.
Morsi, who was facing at least six trials, had been behind bars for nearly six years and was serving a 20-year prison sentence for a conviction arising from the killing of protesters during demonstrations in 2012. He was also serving a life sentence for espionage in a case related to the Gulf state of Qatar.
Other charges against the former president included jailbreak, insulting the judiciary and involvement in “terrorism”.
Morsi became Egypt’s first democratically elected president in 2012, one year after the Arab Spring uprising saw the end of President Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year rule.
He was then deposed and arrested in July 2013 by US-client General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi who later assumed the title of Field Marshal and became President.
Morsi served just one year of a four-year term, while the organisation to which he belonged, the Muslim Brotherhood, has since been outlawed.
“Morsi’s trial was not shown on live TV, he was put on a glass soundproof cage,” Al Jazeera’s Jamal Elshayyal reported.
“He wasn’t allow to see his lawyers one-to-one and he wasn’t allowed family visits; his family repeatedly complained that aside from the solitary confinement he also wasn’t being given the medical treatment he should have,” added Elshayyal.
“Therefore, these are the facts that we know. Whatever the state decides to tell us afterwards has to be taken in the context,” Elshayyal added.
International probe into Morsi’s death urged
In a joint statement, Amr Darrag, a senior member of the Muslim Brotherhood and a minister of planning and international cooperation under Morsi, and Yehia Hamed, a former Egyptian investment minister under Morsi, said an international independent investigation into the death of Morsi should be made public.
“The Egyptian regime knew that the continued denial of access to medical treatment would lead to his premature death. To that effect, the death of President Morsi is tantamount to state sponsored murder,” they said in the statement.
“The first democratically elected President has died through a concerted and active campaign by the Egyptian regime. This is a gross violation of international law. It must not be allowed to stand.”
Global reaction to Morsi’s death
Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the president of Turkey, on Monday blamed Egypt’s “tyrants” for the death of Morsi. “History will never forget those tyrants who led to his death by putting him in jail and threatening him with execution,” Erdogan said in a televised speech in Istanbul.
The Turkish leader called the former Egyptian president a “martyr”. “May Allah rest our Morsi brother, our martyr’s soul in peace,” said Erdogan, who had forged close ties with the former president.
Pakistan’s religious-political party, Jamaat-e-Islami, said the “Muslim world has lost a true hero”.
“Morsi stood tall in the face of all pressures aimed at forcing him to withdraw his struggle for fundamental rights of the people of Egypt and his support to Palestine,” the group’s chief Senator Siraj-ul- Haq said in a statement on Twitter.
He announced that the party on Tuesday would hold funeral prayers in absentia for Morsi across Pakistan.
Amnesty International urged Egyptian authorities to investigate the death of Morsi.
Magdalena Mughrabi, deputy director for the Middle East at Amnesty International, said Morsi’s death “raises serious questions about his treatment in custody.”
“We call on Egyptian authorities to conduct an impartial, thorough and transparent investigation into the circumstances of Mursi’s death, including his solitary confinement and isolation from the outside world,” the London-based rights group said in a twitter post.
It also called for an investigation into the medical care Morsi was receiving, and for anyone found responsible for mistreatment to be held accountable.
Human Rights Watch
Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East and North Africa division, called Morsi’s death “terrible but entirely predictable”, given the government’s failure to allow him adequate medical care.
“What we have been documenting for the past several years is the fact that he has been in the worst conditions. Every time he appeared before the judge, he requested private medical care and medical treatment,” Whitson told Al Jazeera.
“He was been deprived of adequate food and medicine. The Egyptian government had known very clearly about his declining medical state. He had lost a great deal of weight and had also fainted in court a number of times.
“He was kept in the solitary confinement with no access to television, email or any communication with friends and family,” Whitson said, arguing that there would not be a credible independent investigation on Morsi’s death “because their [Egyptian government] job and role is to absolve themselves of wrongdoing ever”.