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Egypt's deposed president Mohamed Morsi dies

Country's first freely elected leader, who was removed in a 2013 military coup, collapses in court
Mohammed Morsi walks to the podium for his address to world leaders at the United Nations General Assembly on 26 September, 2012 in New York City (AFP)

Egypt’s deposed president Mohamed Morsi has died following a session in court, authorities announced on Monday.

Morsi, 67, collapsed after addressing a judge at a session in his trial over charges of espionage, according to the state prosecutor.

In a statement, the state prosecutor said Morsi was immediately transferred to hospital, where he was pronounced dead on arrival at 4.50 pm local time.

The prosecutor said footage from CCTV cameras in the Cairo courtroom will be preserved and testmonies of those present and other defendents in the case will be taken.

A team of forensic specialists will produce a report on the cause of death to allow burial, the prosecutor said.

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Another account of Morsi's final moments, which was obtained by Middle East Eye and details of which have been corroborated by other reports of the court session seen by MEE, described people banging on cages, shouting for security and screaming following Morsi's collapse.

Security forces were said to have taken everyone out of the courtroom.

Reacting to the news, Morsi's son, Ahmed Mohamed Morsi, wrote on Facebook: "We will meet in the presence of God."

Morsi, Egypt's first freely elected leader, came to power following the 2011 popular revolution that toppled longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak.

Born and raised in the Nile Delta, Morsi was an academic and engineer who rose to seniority in Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, before winning the 2012 presidential election as his group's candidate.

Almost seven years ago exactly, Egyptians were voting in the second round of the presidential election that Morsi would go on to win. Egypt has not had a free democratic vote since.

Morsi was removed from power and jailed in a 2013 military coup led by his defence minister, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who then replaced him as president.

Worsening conditions

In March 2018, a panel of British politicians and lawyers warned that Morsi's prison conditions were poor and could lead to his early death.

The panel, which had been convened at the request of Morsi's family, said he had been "receiving inadequate medical care, particularly inadequate management of his diabetes, and inadequate management of his liver disease".

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"The consequence of this inadequate care is likely to be rapid deterioration of his long-term conditions, which is likely to lead to premature death," the panel said in a statement at the time.

The panel, led by Crispin Blunt, a Conservative member of parliament and former officer in the British army, asked to visit Morsi.

The request was ignored by the Egyptian government. It gathered information about the conditions in which Morsi was being held from several sources, including the deposed president's son and a number of health professionals.

The panel said the conditions of his detention could meet the threshold for torture in Egyptian and international law. It added that Sisi "could, in principle, be responsible for the crime of torture".

Political prisoner

Since coming to power, Sisi has waged a crackdown on his political opponents, particularly the Muslim Brotherhood, from which Morsi hailed.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, an ally of Morsi during his presidency, said in a statement: “I wish Allah mercy to our martyr. I wish condolences to his family, his relatives and the Egyptian people. The cruel Sisi executed nearly 50 Egyptians.”

'Sisi and his regime bear full responsibility for the outcome'

- Ayman Nour, exiled politician

Human Rights Watch's Middle East director, Sarah Leah Whitson, said Morsi died following a stroke.

"This is terrible but ENTIRELY predictable, given govt failure to allow him adequate medical care, much less family visits," she tweeted.

Ayman Nour, a former presidential candidate and political opponent, said Morsi had been "killed slowly over six years".

"Sisi and his regime bear full responsibility for the outcome, and there is no other option but international arbitration into what he was subjected to, medical negligence and deprivation of all rights," Nour, who now lives in exile, tweeted.

In a statement on the Muslim Brotherhood's website, cited by Reuters news agency, Morsi's death constitutes as "full-fledged murder" and asked for people gather in front of Egypt's embassies around the world.

"Neither the shock of the news nor the haste in spreading information about the details of (Morsi's) death will change the features of this full-fledged murder," the group wrote.

Two of Morsi's former ministers, Amr Darrag and Yehia Hamed, called for an international investigation.

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"This is a gross violation of international law. It must not be allowed to stand," they said in a joint statement.

Abdullah al-Haddad, the son of Morsi's foreign affairs adviser Essam al-Haddad, told MEE that his father and his brother Gehad, a spokesperson for the Muslim Brotherhood, were in the courtroom with Morsi.

“He constantly asked the judge for medical attention, but his requests were denied,” he said.

Both Haddad's father and brother have been held in solitary confinement for the past six years, he said. His father has suffered four heart attacks and needs urgent medical attention.

“I fear for them the same fate,” Haddad said. “There are many others who are on the verge of death and unless the international community speaks out and demands others to be released, many more will die, including my own father and brother.”

Mohamed Morsi was one of some 60,000 political prisoners detained since the 2013 coup that ousted him (Reuters)
Mohamed Morsi was one of some 60,000 political prisoners detained since the 2013 coup that ousted him (Reuters)

Morsi was one of 60,000 political prisoners estimated to have been jailed since Sisi took power.

He had been in prison since the coup, and faced several trials on charges such as spying for Iran, Qatar and Hamas, and insulting the judiciary. The deposed president was also accused of plotting terror attacks.

Morsi denied all the charges, but was sentenced to death and various jail terms totalling 48 years in five separate cases. He appealed every sentence.

In a rare family visit last year, Morsi said he “would never, ever recognise the coup” that ousted him from power.

Writing in the Washington Post, Morsi's son Abdullah said the conditions his father was being kept in were "appalling".

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"We fear that the Egyptian authorities are doing this on purpose, since they want to see him dead 'from natural causes' as soon as possible," he wrote. 

"These conditions are a mirror of the current state of Egyptian democracy: held prisoner under the guise of so-called anti-terrorism procedures, mistreated and forgotten by most in the international community."

Egypt's interior ministry said security forces had been placed on alert, particularly in Morsi's home province of Sharqiya.

Hundreds of thousands of Egyptians protested Morsi's removal in 2013, culminating in a massacre in Cairo's Rabaa al-Adawiya Square, where anti-coup protesters were holding a sit-in demonstration.

Some 1,000 protesters were killed by security forces in what has been described as the worst mass killing of demonstrators in modern history.