Egypt’s first and only democratically elected president Mohammad Morsi died in a Cairo courtroom on June 17, 2019 under suspicious circumstances. The custody of a government repeatedly ignored his deteriorating health and kept him in constant solitary confinement. He faced bogus charges related to him allegedly betraying his own country. Morsi, a former leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, was spoken to the court as part of his defense before falling to the ground unconscious. He was quickly taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead on arrival at the age of 67.
Morsi was elected to the Egyptian presidency in 2012 in the country’s first free and fair democratic elections. Just after a year, he deposed by the military coup lead by his deployed defense secretary, Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi. Then Sisi has taken control of the country, instituting a crackdown on Muslim Brotherhood members including Morsi.
Following the coup, Morsi and senior officials of the Muslim Brotherhood were arrested on charges that many call politically motivated. Since the coup, the regime has cracked down on all channels of dissent and opposition, arresting many supporters of Morsi and the Brotherhood and those who are against the coup, with many more being killed. The traitors are the judicial authorities and the latest ‘Pharaoh of Cairo’, Abdel Fattah El Sisi, the chief plotter of the treason against Morsi.
The news reports are still unclear as to the cause of Morsi’s untimely death. Some say he died after suffering a stroke. Others yet say that he succumbed to a heart attack. I think, the leading cause of his death was the slow-paced assassination the Egyptian authorities subjected him to since he was ousted in an egregious attack on democracy in 2013.
Morsi has been placed in near-total solitary confinement for six years and there have been numerous reports by human rights watchdogs on his rapidly deteriorating health. Since being removed from power, Morsi was forcibly isolated and denied access to his legal team and family visitation rights. In fact, up until his death, Morsi saw his family only once in six years. He was said to have been forced to sleep on the concrete floor of his cramped cell and isolated from any human interaction while being denied medical treatment.
Many observers noted that while the death of the former head of state was tragic, it was not entirely unexpected, with reports of abuses and poor prison conditions circulating since the time of his imprisonment. A March 2018 report by the Detention Review Panel noted that “Mohamed Morsi is receiving inadequate medical care, particularly inadequate management of his diabetes and inadequate management of his liver disease”. Human Rights Watch’s (HRW) Middle East and North Africa chief, Sarah Leah Whitson, tweeted that HRW was finalizing a new report on his health and incarceration conditions when they learned of his tragic death. She said that the Egyptian government had failed to provide adequate medical care and access to his family, instead putting him in solitary confinement.
Last year, an inquiry led by British lawyers and MPs reviewed the conditions of Dr. Morsi’s detention and concluded that his incarceration constituted “a cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment”, warning that the likely outcome of such a treatment would be his death. Therefore, the question of whether this was a cold, calculated murder, or criminal negligence causing death, is now fully justified. The hurried burial of Morsi only increased the mistrust.
The United Nations office for human rights has led demands for a “prompt, impartial, thorough and transparent investigation”. The manner of the rushed burial has already raised questions. One can imagine how much cooperation an inquiry is likely to receive from a secretive and thuggish regime. Nonetheless, the demand should be made, not only because the facts matter, but because of the message it sends to western democracies determined to pursue what the UK calls a “constructive relationship” with Egypt. France and others wrongly see Mr Sisi as a force for stability in the region, and a handy obstacle to the flow of migrants, as well as a customer for arms sales.
The Demise of Democracy:
In a way, Morsi’s demise reflects the death of the Egyptian experiment with democracy in addition to his own life. He was also the first non-military president in the country’s modern history, reflecting the hopes of many Egyptians that the country would begin to move away from military control after the fall of long-time autocrat Hosni Mubarak in 2011. In reality, the military is now more in control of Egypt than ever before. Sisi solidifying his power after a referendum was passed last April amending the constitution to allow him to stay in power potentially until 2030.
The death of Morsi, elected with 51 percent of the vote on the heels of the Arab Spring, symbolizes for many the demise of hope for democracy in Egypt. The message in His death is clear – Egyptians should never, ever in their wildest dreams consider calling for freedom again. The ultimate tragedy is that the dictator that Egyptians overthrew during the Arab Spring, Hosni Mubarak, has lived to see the day that his democratically elected successor would not. Mubarak must be laughing at the irony that Egyptians rose up for freedom, only for the deep state he spent decades feeding and growing to rise up from the depths and swallow them all back into the abyss of authoritarianism.
‘Morsi’s death demands an inquiry, but any inquiry by al-Sisi’s government could not be trusted, His death requires an investigation, but we cannot verify the idea of poisoned food or all these things without an impartial committee, which is again a problematic issue in itself at this point.’ said Seif Da’Na, associate professor of Sociology and International Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside.
When Egypt sentenced Morsi to death in 2015, it had sentenced democracy to death. Egyptian democracy died with Mohammed Morsi, a man who had the courage and moral fortitude to attempt to serve his country and lift it from decades of repression, only to pay the ultimate price.
Fact File on a Hafiz-e-Quran
Morsi was born on August 8, 1951 in the village of El Adwah in northern Egypt’s Al-Sharqia governorate. He grew up in a simple family. His father was a farmer and his mother was a housewife. He married in 1978 and has five children and three grandchildren. He was a Hafiz-e-Quran, the entire Quran memorised by heart.
He studied engineering at Cairo University, earning a bachelor’s degree in 1975 and a master’s degree in engineering metallurgy in 1978. He then traveled to the United States to continue his education, earning a Ph.D. in engineering from the University of Southern California in 1982. After receiving his doctorate, he taught engineering at California State University, Northridge, until 1985. During that time he also worked for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) on the development of engines for the space shuttle program.
In 1985 he returned to Egypt and became a professor of engineering at Zagazig University until 2010. Morsi also became active in politics as a member of the Muslim Brotherhood. In 2000 he was elected to the People’s Assembly; he held the seat as an independent, because the Muslim Brotherhood was formally banned in Egypt. During this time Morsi pressed the government to enact political reform, calling for the lifting of repressive measures, including the emergency law, which granted the police unlimited powers of arrest and detention, and laws limiting the formation of political parties.
Morsi was subsequently appointed to the Muslim Brotherhood’s Guidance Bureau, the organization’s highest executive body. In 2006 he was arrested and imprisoned for seven months after participating in protests calling for the establishment of an independent judiciary in Egypt. Morsi was one of the most active members of Parliament, serving in that role from 2000-2005. He co-founded the National Association for Change in 2004 and the Egyptian Association for Change in partnership with famed Egyptian figure Mohamed ElBaradei in 2010, which played a pivotal role in preparing for the Egyptian revolution that led to the ouster of former President Hosni Mubarak in 2011.
He was also arrested during protests in January 2011 that forced Mubarak to step down as president. Morsi co-founded the Freedom and Justice Party, the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood. On April 30, 2011, the Shura Council of the Muslim Brotherhood elected him as chairman of the Freedom and Justice Party alongside Issam al-Erian as his deputy and Mohammad Saad Al-Katatni as party secretary.
Morsi won the first post-revolution presidential election in 2012, becoming Egypt’s first democratically elected civilian president and fifth president of the republic.
Since Morsi’s ouster, Egypt’s post-coup authorities have waged a relentless crackdown on dissenters, killing hundreds of the former president’s supporters and throwing thousands in jail on violence charges. Shortly after the coup, Morsi’s party was officially designated a “terrorist organization” in Egypt. Morsi faced a host of charges since he was ousted and imprisoned. There were six fabricated charges against the former leader, including jailbreak, murder, spying for Qatar, spying for Hamas and Hezbollah, insulting the judiciary and involvement in terrorism.
Writer: Journalist and Geopolitical Analyst