Egypt’s first democratically elected president died on Monday during his court trial. His family and rights organisations have been saying for years that his treatment in prison amounted to a slow death.
Egypt’s first democratically elected president Mohamed Morsi died during his trial on Monday. The reason for his death has not been revealed, whether it’s a stroke, a heart attack or something more sinister such as a slow assassination.
Morsi had served for one year before a military coup staged by the general-turned-President Abdel Fatah el Sisi toppled his government and arrested him.
The tragic events on Monday have spurred human rights organisations to seek an independent panel to look into the circumstances surrounding Morsi’s death.
Here's some significant details about Morsi's imprisonment that previously came from independent observers.
1. Failing health
Morsi, 67, suffered from several ailments, from diabetes to liver disease. A report published last year by a group of British politicians and lawyers stated: “Mohammed Morsi is receiving inadequate medical care, particularly inadequate management of his diabetes and inadequate management of his liver disease.”
The report compiled by the Detention Review Panel (DRP) warned: “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.”
In a statement on Monday, British MP Crispin Blunt, who chaired the panel, said: “Sadly, we have been proved right.”
2. ‘Cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment’, i.e. torture
The DRP report also suggested that the way Morsi was being treated while in prison was “below the standard expected by international standards for prisoners, and would constitute cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment”. The report did not stop there, concluding that Morsi’s detention “could meet the threshold for torture” in accordance Egyptian and international law.
The report even went so far as to say that due to the chain of command: “The current President [Sisi] could, in principle, be responsible for the crime of torture, which is a crime of universal jurisdiction.”
Sarah Leah Whitson, the executive director for the Middle East and North Africa Division of Human Rights Watch tweeted: “[Morsi’s death] is terrible but ENTIRELY predictable, given govt failure to allow him adequate medical care, much less family visits.”
BREAKING - #Egypt news says only democratically elected Pres #Morsy has died in prison after stroke. This is terrible but ENTIRELY predictable, given govt failure to allow him adequate medical care, much less family visits. @hrw was just finalizing a report on his health.— Sarah Leah Whitson (@sarahleah1) June 17, 2019
Whitson also called for an independent investigation into the circumstances of Morsi’s death, tweeting: “Whatever one’s views of Morsy’s (sic) politics, his treatment was horrific & those responsible should be investigated & appropriately prosecuted.”
.@HRW -- #Egypt government deliberately singled out former Pres #Morsy for especially harsh treatment & isolation. Whatever one’s views of Morsy’s politics, his treatment was horrific & those responsible should be investigated & appropriately prosecuted— Sarah Leah Whitson (@sarahleah1) June 18, 2019
Human Rights Watch (HRW) also made a formal plea on its website, calling the UN to investigate, stating: “The United Nations Human Rights Council, whose next session begins on June 24, should establish an investigation into ongoing gross violations of human rights in Egypt, including widespread ill-treatment in prisons and Morsy’s death.”
HRW’s statement noted that Morsi, living on canned food for fear of poisoning and going into diabetic comas on a regular basis for lack of medical attention, was not allowed to see his family or other prisoners.
Of the six years he was kept in the Tora Prison complex, known as the Scorpion Prison in Cairo, he was rarely afforded family visits. HRW noted: “On June 4, 2017, Egyptian authorities allowed Morsy to receive visits from his family and lawyer for only the second time in nearly four years.”
The last time Morsi was allowed to see his family was in September 2018, but even then his meeting was supervised by security agency members, one of whom took notes. Morsi was suffering from back and neck pains from sleeping on the floor without a mattress, and mentioned that his left eye might need an operation but that he had received no follow-up visits from the prison doctor or any other health officials.
A family member told HRW that Morsi was not allowed to occupy the same space as other prisoners and had no interaction with them. Morsi was also kept in isolation during trials, placed in a glass box, without access to his lawyer or family members.
4. Sham trials
HRW accuses the Sisi administration of putting on sham trials for Morsi, saying the proceedings “failed to meet basic measures of due process and appeared to be politically motivated”.
Morsi was sentenced to 48 years in prison. According to HRW, Egyptian courts had convicted him of charges including alleged espionage and instigating violence; he had exhausted his appeals in at least three of the cases. At the time of his death, Morsi was in the midst of a retrial on charges in another espionage case.
Amr Magdi, a researcher from HRW summed it up by saying Morsi was treated inhumanely and did not have a fair trial.
Whether ppl supported or opposed #Morsy, here are the facts:— Amr Magdi (@ganobi) June 17, 2019
1- He was kept in isolation for 6 years. Treatment amounts to torture according to international law.
2- He was deprived from sufficient medical treatment.
3- He was not offered a fair trial in any of his charges. pic.twitter.com/Q22cmiwaSj