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Egypt’s Morsi faces slow death from torture  

Egypt’s ousted President Mohamed Morsi attends a trial session in Cairo, Egypt on February 26, 2017 [Moustafa El Shemy/Anadolu Agency]
Egypt’s ousted President Mohamed Morsi attends a trial session in Cairo, Egypt on 26 February 2017 [Moustafa El Shemy/Anadolu Agency]

Former Egyptian president, Mohamed Morsi, could die a slow death from torture if he continues to be denied medical attention.

Maha Azzam, President of the Egyptian Revolutionary Council, told MEMO today that the denial of medication to Morsi constitutes a form of torture and urged the international community to intervene urgently to ensure his safety and well-being. Azzam explained that torture is systematic in the Egyptian prison system, responsibility for which must be taken by the current Egyptian regime.

Military coup that ousted Mohamed Morsi in Egypt- Cartoon [Latuff/MiddleEastMonitor]

Military coup that ousted Mohamed Morsi in Egypt- Cartoon [Latuff/MiddleEastMonitor]

Morsi, who is diabetic and suffers from hypertension and liver disease, is being held in dire conditions at Tora prison in Cairo. He has been sentenced on a range of charges, which include harming national security by leaking state secrets to foreign countries and the killing of protesters during public demonstrations in 2012. He has appeared in three trials since his initial arrest, and a death sentence, which was handed to him in a fourth case, was overturned in November 2016.

A recent report by a panel of British MPs and lawyers announced that “if Dr Morsi isn’t provided with medical attention, the damage to his health may be permanent or terminal.” The panel, which was led by Crispin Blunt, former chairman of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, told The Times “responsibility for [damage to his health] goes all the way up the chain of command.”

Ahmed El Attar, Human Rights Researcher at the Egyptian Coordination of Rights and Freedoms, told MEMO that despite repeatedly requesting the necessary medical care in a series of court appearances, Morsi has been denied this basic right. El Attar sees this denial of medical care as a form of punishment being used by the regime against its political prisoners and emphasises that Morsi is not the only prisoner to be treated as such. In his latest appearance in court in late 2017, Morsi’s solicitor told the judge he “feared for his life” if he continued to suffer such mistreatment.

READ: Remembering the Egyptian Revolution

Mohamed Morsi was Egypt’s first democratically-elected president, coming to power in 2012 with 51 per cent of the vote over his rival Ahmed Shafiq. Morsi was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, a group now banned under Al-Sisi’s regime after a surge in popular support following the uprisings of 2011.

The director of Middle East and North Africa in Human Rights Watch, Sarah Lean Watson (R) speaks during a conference demanding the freedom of former president of Egypt, Mohammed Morsi, in New York, US on 23 August 2017 [Mohammed Elshamy/Anadolu Agency]

Morsi’s arrest came immediately after he was overthrown by a military coup in July 2013. The coup was led by General Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, the Egyptian army chief, who has since served as President of Egypt. Al-Sisi looks likely to be re-elected as Egypt goes to the polls today, following a crackdown on opposition figures who announced their intention to stand against him.

Azzam emphasised that, as the first democratically-elected president of Egypt, democratic governments across the world have a responsibility to ensure the safety and well-being of Morsi. This is particularly important in light of the fact that today’s elections do not meet international standards for free and fair elections.

READ: Sisi: Egypt not ‘ready for democracy’

Morsi is just one of 60,000 political prisoners being held in Egyptian prisons, with a further 15,000 civilians thought to have been subject to military trial since 2014. Human Rights Watch has pointed to figures from the Egyptian Coordination for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF), that show 30 people died from torture while being held in police stations and other Interior Ministry detention sites between 2013 and 2015. In 2016, the ECRF lawyers received 830 torture complaints, and a further 14 people had died from torture in custody.

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