Espanol / English

Middle East Near You

Morsi may die in an Egyptian prison. It’s time the British government spoke up

The latest bulletins concerning the health of ex-president Mohamed Morsi of Egypt are terrible.

Morsi has been held in custody since the July 2013 military coup which saw him overthrown and brought Abdul Fattah al-Sisi to power.

In cases criticised by Western governments, human rights groups and the UN, Egyptian courts have handed him lengthy prison sentences several times, including on charges of spying for Qatar and Hamas and killing protesters during demonstrations in 2012.

The former president is suffering from fainting fits and has twice collapsed into a coma. His health is severely damaged and I am told there is even reason to fear for his life.

This news has just emerged. Last week, his family visited for first time in four years and were shocked by what they saw – and so should we all be.

But I’m also shocked by the inertia of the British government.

Where is the protest?

Three hundred years ago, the English diplomat Sir Henry Wotton declared: “An ambassador is an honest gentleman sent to lie abroad for the good of his country.”

But John Casson, the British ambassador to Egypt, is stretching this advice rather too far.

I can assure Casson that he has not been sent abroad to betray everything that Britain stands for: tolerance, decency, freedom, the rule of law.

Three years have passed since Casson was dispatched to Egypt as British ambassador.

As far as I can discover, he has not yet described the military takeover of Egypt by Field Marshall Sisi as a coup d’etat, which is what it was.

I have examined Casson’s record. I can find no complaints about the mass murder of Egyptian citizens by the Sisi regime. I can find no protests about torture and rape of political prisoners in Egyptian prisons.

At one I assume satirical moment, Casson praised Sisi’s Egypt for “building a more stable, more prosperous and more democratic future”.

Soon after the Rabaa Massacre in August 2013, when Egyptian security forces violently cleared two pro-Morsi protest camps in Cairo killing at least 1,000 protesters, the UK government suspended 49 military export licenses to prevent British military goods from being used to repress Egyptians.

“As a result of the developing situation in Egypt, we have agreed with EU partners in this instance to go further and suspend all export licences for goods which might be used for internal repression,” Vince Cable, UK’s business secretary, said at the time.

“By acting together, we want to send a clear signal that we condemn all violence in Egypt.”

Slowly but surely, this stance has eroded as Britain has quietly resumed arms deals.

Time to speak out

Even if we accept – and we should not – that Britain, for cynical, base, amoral, commercial reasons, is unable to confront any of the above actions, we return to the basic humanity of the situation.

Ex-president Morsi is ill. He is not receiving proper medical attention. He desperately needs help. Britain should do everything it can to ensure he gets it, including speaking out publicly and putting harsh pressure on the regime.

On Tuesday, I spoke at an emergency press conference called by the Egyptian Revolutionary Council to draw attention to the plight of Mohamed Morsi.

My fellow speakers spoke eloquently.

Anas Al-Tikriti, founder of the Cordoba Foundation, pointed out that Britain is “a nation which prides itself on the values of human rights and freedoms” adding that “it is irresponsible of our government…to be absolutely dismissive and silent on the horrendous abuses committed on a daily basis.

“Not only in the prisons, but on the streets of Egypt every day. The closing down of media outlets, of free speech, of political dissent, and the crushing of any popular movement that might air a trace of dissent against the ruling military regime. “

The renowned British lawyer Toby Cadman pointed out that deprivation of medical treatment under international law is equivalent to torture. It is time, he said, to contemplate sanctions against the regime in Cairo, adding that “Egyptian leaders when they travel to Britain should be arrested.”

It is time for the British government to ponder such measures.

A matter of indifference

We are guilty of gross double standards.

When Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi was illegally held under house arrest, British diplomats pressed for her release.

But when ex-president Morsi is deprived of medical attention he needs, this is apparently a matter of indifference to Her Majesty’s Government.

Of course, Egypt is not the only place where Britain seems to have forgotten our fundamental values. We are deeply complicit in the tragedy in the Yemen, for exactly the same reasons.

In the Yemeni conflict, as in Egypt, we are pathetically beholden to Saudi Arabia. It’s time Britain remembers we are a great country, with proud values and one that stands up for decency.

That means lifting a finger for Mohamed Morsi, the democratically elected president of Egypt.

This article was first published on on 14 June 2017.

AfricaArticleEgyptEurope & RussiaOpinionUK
  • Fasdunkle

    The MB are a far more extremist equivalent of the UK’s BNP

    • gogrrrl

      The MB are moderate. The biggest extremists in the entire region are the Zionists – and that is an unassailable fact of history and of the present.

      • Fasdunkle

        They are “moderate” compared to IS but not moderate compared to people who believe in universal human rights and freedom of and from religion

        • Mohamed Mo

          They appointed Coptic Christians to the upper House of Parliament.

          • Fasdunkle

            Gosh. They must be cool then.

          • Wow…dhimmis in the majlis. The Iranians appoint a Zoroaster and a Jew, by the way. Worth mentioning that approx 10% of the Israeli Knesset are freely elected Muslims, according to the most recent election results (2015).

  • Wanis Samara

    Thanks for peter

  • gogrrrl

    This is appalling – and so is the lack of support from all those who Morsi helped while he was president. I will never forget how he sent a delegation of parliamentarians to Gaza during the 2012 Israeli offensive – and how Israel bombed and destroyed the Council of Ministers as soon as they left. I wonder if Egypt would consider releasing him to Gaza in exchange for the 17 people they are demanding from Hamas…..

  • What has this got to do with Britain any more than Italy, France, Germany, Slovenia or South Korea for that matter? Why are you singling out Britain, and with all the trouble in the world, Morsi of all people? He brought all this upon himself. Comparing an anti-democratic Muslim fundamentalist like Morsi with Aung San Suu Kyi is obscene.

    • Agatha Rizky

      Morsi is an anti Democratic Muslim? Watch your mind! He was FIRST democratically President. And he topped by Asi si.

      • So was Mussolini. But that would have been the last free Egyptian election ever, like the 1933 one in Germany. He was deposed because he and his MB cronies tried to push through the new Islamist constitution which would have turned Egypt into a Sunni version of Shiite Iran. Meanwhile he let ISIS run riot in Sinai and slaughter innocent peacetime Egyptian soldiers with impunity. Within a decade millions of Egyptian Copts would have joined the steady stream of Arab Christians escaping the Middle East.

        • Mohamed Mo

          LOL Sisi is reversible? You’ve got to be kidding me, Sisi is prepared to turn Egypt into Syria 2.0 if he’s forced to relinquish power.

          Push through a constitution? How exactly is holding a referendum “pushing through” a constitution?

          • Oh referendum, right… boycotted by opposition parties, as if there was any chance that the MB would have allowed itself to lose it. Why tinker with the constitution at all?! And just one year after achieving power?! Give me a break.
            Yes, Sisi is reversible, just like Farouk, Neguib, Nasser, Sadat and Mubarak. Why not?