Photograph — Ahmed Omar, AP

Former Egyptian President, Mohamed Morsi died yesterday from a heart attack during a trial in Cairo. Morsi was Egypt’s first democratically elected president after decades of repression under Egyptian autocrats. Egypt’s public prosecutor Nabil Sadiq released a statement saying Morsi was pronounced dead on arrival at a Cairo hospital at 4:50 pm following his collapse inside the defendants ‘cage’ in the courtroom. Before his sudden death yesterday, the 67-year-old had been in jail since his ouster in 2013 serving a life sentence on an array of charges including espionage and inciting violence.

Morsi’s death follows years of reported health problems including diabetes and high blood pressure, which further deteriorated under unfair prison conditions. In 2018, a panel of British lawyers and parliamentarians who reviewed the conditions of his detention reported that Morsi received inadequate medical care, particularly inadequate management of his diabetes and liver disease. He was also kept in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day and allowed only an hour of exercise.

Crispin Blunt, chairman of the detention review panel, has called for an investigation into Morsi’s death. “The Egyptian government has a duty to explain his unfortunate death … We want to understand whether there was any change in his conditions since we reported in March 2018, and if he continued to be held in the conditions we found, then I’m afraid the Egyptian government are likely to be responsible for his premature death,” he told the BBC.

Popular human rights organizations like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have also echoed Blunt’s sentiments decrying Morsi’s condition of detention and calling for an impartial, thorough and transparent investigation into the circumstances of his death. “The government of Egypt today bears responsibility for his death, given their failure to provide him with adequate medical care or basic prisoner rights,” HRW told Al Jazeera. Relatives of the late ex-president also said Egyptian authorities denied them visits to give him food and medicine.

Mursi was buried early today in a restricted family ceremony in Cairo. He was laid to rest next to the graves of other leading members of his Muslim Brotherhood. “We washed his noble body at Tora prison hospital, read prayers for him at the prison hospital”, his son Ahmed Morsi said in a Facebook post today.

Morsi’s brief rule

Before his displacement by the military six years ago, Morsi was an unpopular president. His brief rule was marked by an authoritarian style of governance and fell short of the hopes raised by the Arab Spring protests. When he assumed power on the 30th of June 2012, Morsi promised Egyptians a new democratic era in which autocracy would be replaced by a transparent government that respected human rights but he failed to fulfil these promises.

Instead, things took a grave turn for Egypt during his time in power. The general standard of living was worse than it had been during the time of Mubarak. The demands of the January 2011 revolution – bread, justice and equality – were not fulfilled. He pushed Egypt towards a more conservative Islamic state, alienating the secular inclined youths. He also wanted to be involved in the Syrian conflict, a war the Egyptian people did not want to be a part of. Morsi failed politically and economically, and Egyptians called for his displacement by staging a massive protest against his administration.

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