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Egypt's 1st democratically elected president dies a prisoner

18 June 2019 15:06

CAIRO. KAZINFORM Mohamed Morsi, the only democratically elected president in Egypt's history, died Monday after spending six years in detention under harsh conditions that included near-complete isolation and denial of proper medical care, EFE reports.

Already serving a life sentence from previous convictions, the 67-year-old Islamist passed out in court during a session of his trial for espionage and was pronounced dead on arrival at a Cairo hospital.

The government of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi provided no information on the cause of death, saying only that Morsi was rushed to the hospital after he collapsed inside the glass cage where defendants sit.

The doctors who examined Morsi's body did not detect any recent injuries, Attorney General Nabil Sadeq said in a statement.

The former president's health deteriorated during the years in custody, most of them spent at Borg al-Arab prison, located in the desert west of Alexandria.

Since July 3, 2013, when the man Morsi appointed as defense minister, then-Gen. el-Sisi, ousted him in a bloodless coup, the only public glimpses of the former head of state have come during his infrequent courtroom appearances.

Morsi's family were joined by human rights organizations in accusing the Egyptian government of mistreating the prisoner.

Amnesty International said in February that Morsi's family had been allowed to visit him on only three occasions during his detention.

The erstwhile head of state was also held in solitary confinement much of the time, according to Human Rights Watch, which echoed complaints from Morsi's family that the prisoner was denied badly needed medical care.

Morsi suffered from diabetes and hypertension, among other ailments, and his death in custody was "tantamount to state-sponsored murder," two former members of his administration, Amr Darrag and Yehia Hamed, said in a joint statement.

Expressions of regret over Morsi's death came mainly from outside of Egypt, as the al-Sisi government shows little tolerance for dissent.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose Islamist AKP party has close ties with the Muslim Brotherhood, offered condolences to Morsi's family and repeated previous criticism of the el-Sisi government for sidelining democracy in Egypt.

"Unfortunately, the incident took place in the court room. I first of all I wish God's mercy for our martyred brother Morsi," the Turkish leader said.

"The West has always been silent in the face of these executions by Sisi. The EU member-states forbidding execution unfortunately accepted an invitation by this murderer Sisi to attend a meeting in Egypt," Erdogan said.

Besides the brief statement from the attorney general, the Egyptian government has had no comment on Morsi's death, which came as el-Sisi was out of the country on an official visit to Belarus.

The Interior Ministry said that the police and army had been put on alert and EFE spotted riot cops and armored vehicles in central Cairo, though the city remained quiet.

Muslim tradition requires burial as soon after death as possible, but Morsi's funeral may be delayed by the need for an autopsy to determine the exact cause of death.

"Father, we will meet again, with God," the former president's son Ahmed wrote on Facebook.

Mohamed Morsi was born into a family of limited means in al-Adwah, a village in the Nile Delta province of Sharqiya. After earning a degree in engineering from Cairo University, he moved to the United States and completed a PhD in materials science at the University of Southern California.

On his return to Egypt, Morsi accepted a professorship at Zagazig University in Sharqiya, going on to chair the institution's engineering faculty.

He joined the Muslim Brotherhood in 1979 and ascended in 1995 to a position on the organization's governing body, the Consultative Council.

That same year, he won election to Egypt's parliament as an independent and remained in the legislature for a decade. He spent six months in jail in 2006 for supporting protests by reform-minded judges.

Morsi and other Islamist leaders were being held at Wadi Natrun prison north of Cairo in early 2011 during the Arab Spring revolution that put an end to reign of Hosni Mubarak after 30 years.

While he was not the Muslim Brotherhood's first choice to lead the Islamist movement into the historic 2012 presidential election, Morsi prevailed at the polls and took office on June 30, 2012.

The new president did not enjoy much in the way of a honeymoon and by the summer of 2013, large crowds were gathering in Cairo's Tahrir Square - the epicenter of the 2011 uprising - to demand that Morsi resign and call early elections.

El-Sisi seized on the popular dissatisfaction to justify removing Morsi.

In what turned out to be his last words, Morsi insisted Monday in court that he remained Egypt's legitimate president.

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