In 2018 a cross-party group of British MPs asked the Egyptian government for access to Mohamed Morsi amid fears that the former President’s death was imminent.
The answer that came back was a firm “no.” Authorities insisted he was receiving adequate treatment, though no evidence was given to quell growing anxiety he was being denied access to urgent medical care.
The problem was not issuing the visas or granting the permission the MPs needed to enter the jail. For several years Egyptian authorities have waved aside bureaucracy to welcome the UK’s politicians to Cairo where they have signed off on ludicrous trade deals on anything from gas exploration to telecommunications.
Two years after Morsi was overthrown the British government resumed multimillion pound arms sales to Egypt as part of a drive by then Prime Minister David Cameron to boost financial ties with the country. Egypt has emerged with little profit on contracts with BP and Vodafone and expensive weaponry it can’t really afford. But for a regime with a bad reputation it has bought something far more valuable. Legitimacy on the world stage.
This legitimacy has given Egypt’s government cover for the numerous human rights abuses that have been diligently documented by human rights organisations and ignored by Western governments, such as the incarceration of 60,000 political prisoners and the forcible disappearance of minors.
We can now add to that list the protracted murder of the late President Mohammed Morsi.
Since Sisi assumed power in the aftermath of Morsi’s downfall he has pursued a scorched earth policy across the country, but a number of key events have stood out. The first was the 2013 Rabaa massacre in which 1,000 of his supporters were killed at a sit-in, and which highlighted the government’s practice of extrajudicial executions. The second was the 2016 killing of Italian student Giulio Regeni, which shone a spotlight on torture.
Despite the gravity of these incidents, and the media coverage which followed, neither torture nor extrajudicial killings have abated. If anything they have worsened.
Mohamed Morsi’s death has now raised the plight of detainees being denied medical treatment in jail after calls by his family and lawyer to treat his diabetes and liver and kidney disease fell on deaf ears. But will the thousands of inmates asking for access to a doctor suddenly be granted one?
The state-run media, which has rallied around Sisi since he assumed the presidency, tried to bury the story. Only one featured his death on the front page; another wrote seven lines in the crime and accident section of the publication. Several journalists even celebrated his death, live on TV.
Instead of heeding calls by the UN, Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and Human Rights Watch for an independent investigation into the authorities responsible for Morsi’s death, the Interior Minister has banned family visits for a number of detainees after they expressed fears their loved ones would meet the same fate.
Here in the UK, neither the Prime Minister Theresa May nor the two Tory leadership candidates Boris Johnson or Jeremy Hunt have joined calls for an independent inquiry into the death of the former democratically elected President of their major ally. Yet the British government has repeatedly been warned that if it continues with business as usual, with a preference for economic return over human rights, life is only going to get worse for Egyptians.
During his multiple court sessions Morsi begged the judge for specialised medical treatment. They resorted to keeping him in a sound proof box so they didn’t have to listen. When he collapsed one week ago, Morsi represented the thousands of Egyptians who have been killed for trying to speak freely.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.