Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s first democratically elected president, collapsed and died while on trial in a Cairo courtroom on Monday, six years after the military ousted him in tumultuous circumstances that pushed Egypt back to autocratic rule. Morsi addressed the court for five minutes from a glass cage. He suddenly collapsed and fell down. He was rushed to hospital where he was declared dead. Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who was a strong ally of Morsi when he was in power, paid tribute to the former president on Monday calling him a “martyr,” while calling current Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi “cruel.” Qatar’s ruler Sheikh Tamin bin Hamad al-Thani, another backer of Morsi, tweeted his condolences, saying he received the news of Morsi’s death with “deep sorrow.”
Egyptian authorities gave no official cause of death, but critics blamed the poor conditions in the prison where Mr. Morsi had spent the past six years. They said the authorities had deprived him of vital medicine for diabetes, high blood pressure and liver disease; held him in solitary confinement for long periods; and ignored repeated public warnings that the lack of proper medical care could be fatal.
New York Times reported Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director for the Middle East and North Africa at Human Rights Watch as having said “I think there is a very strong case to be made that this was criminal negligence, deliberate malfeasance in providing Morsi basic prisoner rights. He was very obviously singled out for mistreatment.”
Morsi, 67, won Egypt’s first free presidential election in 2012 as a senior leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, but was removed from power a year later in a military takeover. United States, the so-called defender of democracy was the first to support the military coup against Morsi. American stooges Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates went ahead of their American master. The Saudi Salfies even declared the Muslim Brotherhood as a “terrorist” organization.
His defense minister, Gen. Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, seized power on July 3, 2013. Six weeks later, Egyptian security forces shot dead hundreds of Egyptian protesters, mostly from the Muslim Brotherhood, in what human rights groups called the largest mass shooting of demonstrators in recent history.
Morsi had been lodged in jail his removal in 2013. He was facing fake charges including terrorism, spying and breaking out of prison in trials that human rights groups say are deeply flawed. He was in court to face espionage charges on Monday afternoon when he fell unconscious and died.
After his arrest, Morsi gave angry speeches in court and continuously insisted he remained Egypt’s legitimate president. His speeches led judges to order him kept in a glass cage during court sessions where they could turn off his audio. He was later sentenced to death. However, the apex court of the Egypt stayed the death sentence and ordered re-opening and re-hearing of the case.
His death was a somber milestone in Egypt’s ill-fated democratic transition after the Arab Spring in 2011.
El-Sisi was elected president in 2014 and he still rules the country with an iron grip, with Egypt’s democratic hopes largely extinguished.