Mohamed Morsi will forever be remembered as Egypt’s first democratically-elected President, something that his enemies can never take away from him. Yesterday, he collapsed and died in a Cairo courtroom just moments after he had addressed the hearing from a cage; he was facing ludicrous charges of espionage linked to the Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas.
Unsurprisingly, the Muslim Brotherhood called his death “murder”, an accusation that is not as outrageous as it might sound. I would call it a political assassination in full view of a watching world. The consequences of this in the volatile Middle East could be horrific, considering the paranoia of the Egyptian regime under its current dictator.
Morsi died as a direct result of the inhumane treatment meted out to him by a brutal, vindictive regime headed by his own former Defence Minister, General Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, who led the 2013 military coup against his former boss. That is why Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was prompted to describe Morsi as a “martyr”. He went on to blame Egypt’s “tyrants” for the 67-year-old’s demise, but there are a few other guilty parties who also had a hand in Morsi’s death.
Any number of Middle East rulers, tyrants and despots — men whose hatred of democracy fuelled their fear of the Muslim Brotherhood — could have reined-in Al-Sisi over his treatment of Morsi. However, it suited their own selfish purposes to have him isolated, abused and locked up. Israel also breathed a sigh of relief when the coup succeeded, as President Morsi had reached out to become a friend of the Palestinians, something untenable as far as Tel Aviv was concerned.
The Emir of Qatar, Shaikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani, a known ally of the Brotherhood leader, expressed his “deep sorrow” upon hearing the news of his death. His views were shared by UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric, who offered condolences to Morsi’s relatives and supporters. Sarah Leah Whitson, the Executive Director of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East and North Africa division, described his death as “terrible but entirely predictable”.
She was right to do so. Held in appalling conditions, Morsi was deprived of decent food and adequate medicine, and had previously fainted in court several times during a number of hearings on trumped-up charges. To their eternal shame, the judges who presided over his case ignored his deteriorating health which was due to high blood pressure, diabetes, dramatic weight loss and general frailty.
By keeping the former President in solitary confinement with no access to television, email or any other means of direct communication with friends and family, the current Egyptian regime is without doubt guilty of his demise. According to Egypt’s public prosecutor, an initial post-mortem report showed no signs of recent injuries on the body. In trademark Sisi style, there will now, no doubt, be a massive cover up and a final report concluding that Morsi died of natural causes.
However, like the rest of the world, the Egyptian people know that there was nothing natural about the manner of Morsi’s incarceration, the endless kangaroo courts and spineless judiciary, and the vicious treatment meted out by a vindictive regime, the members of which all conspired to silence the deposed President.
Morsi’s enemies feared him so much that he was kept in a soundproof glass cage so that his message could not get out to the Egyptian people who loved, admired and elected the Muslim Brotherhood leader as their President after the Arab Spring revolution which ousted former dictator Hosni Mubarak. Fearing the spread of democracy across the region, neighbouring despots plotted and conspired to undermine Morsi’s leadership, which ended dramatically in that infamous military coup. As much as Al-Sisi may try to rewrite history, the injustice of it all will never go away.
Sadly, Western leaders also played their part in Morsi’s premeditated death. This month, the Trump administration in Washington, was working as a favour to Israel and Al-Sisi on legislation to designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a foreign terrorist organisation. It remains to be seen if this effort will continue, but other governments which have taken this step have yet to provide any tangible evidence of terrorist activity sanctioned by the movement.
The UAE pushed former Prime Minister David Cameron to do something similar, but it backfired when the British Government’s investigation gave the Brotherhood a clean bill of health. On hearing the news from Cairo yesterday, the former chair of the Council for the Advancement of Arab-British Understanding, Crispin Blunt MP, called for a “reputable independent international investigation,” and said that Egypt’s government had a “duty to explain [Morsi’s] unfortunate death.”
Last year, a British parliamentary panel led by Blunt, reported that Mohamed Morsi was being kept in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day, which they concluded could be classified as torture, given the overall conditions of his imprisonment. Some expressed fear that his treatment could lead to his premature death. Despite such warnings, though, the Egyptian regime ignored the pleas from the British delegation as well as other international politicians and human rights groups.
The political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood — the Freedom and Justice Party — is urging supporters to demonstrate outside Egyptian embassies around the world over the next few days. “They placed him in solidarity confinement throughout his detention, which exceeded five years,” the movement explained in a public statement. “They prevented medicine and provided poor food… They prevented doctors and lawyers and even communication with his family. They deprived him of the simplest human rights.”
During his first year in office, President Mohamed Morsi was accused of mounting an Islamist coup and mishandling the economy, although it is well-known that the “deep state” controlling all of Egypt’s ministries ensured that few, if any, civil servants cooperated with his government. His support for the Palestinians, including Hamas, raised more than a few eyebrows. By 3 July, 2013, the army under Al-Sisi’s leadership had suspended the Egyptian Constitution, announced an interim government ahead of new elections and detained Morsi. This was a military coup in anyone’s language led by a general who went on to become President the following year.
It may have taken six years for the Egyptian regime to murder Morsi, but the democratic waves and hope that he brought to the people of Egypt will never die. As much as Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi might want to kill off Mohamed Morsi’s ideals and beliefs, the late Muslim Brotherhood leader will forever be known in history as the man who was Egypt’s first democratically elected President of the Republic. Not even a dictator like Al-Sisi can change that simple fact. Morsi’s legacy will live on.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.