Abdullah Morsi’s last request to human rights lawyers was to continue denouncing the conditions of his brother Osama’s detention, and the abuses that he was being subjected to. The youngest son of the late Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, Abdullah died last September following a sudden heart attack aged just 25. The Morsi family have their doubts about the cause of death and have made them known through Toby Cadman, the head of their legal team; they believe that President Morsi and his youngest son were killed by the Egyptian regime of Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi.
Osama Mohamed Morsi is the third son of the late President. He graduated with a law degree and practiced through his private office. He was a member of his father’s defence team and his family’s official spokesman. Osama is neither a member of the Muslim Brotherhood nor the Freedom and Justice Party, but works in the field of political research, although he does not like working in politics. He was arrested at his home in Sharqia in December 2016 and was accused with others of organising the 2013 Rabaa Al-Adawiyya protest. He was accused of possessing a kitchen knife and transferred to various detention centres, ending up in the maximum-security Al-Aqrab Prison.
On 12 August 2017 Osama Morsi appeared in court, heavily guarded and carrying his child for the first time and speaking to his wife. He complained to the judge that he had not been allowed visitation rights or to complete his post-graduate education. He also said that he had been isolated from other prisoners for over 9 months, and not allowed to pray the Friday Jumu’ah prayers with them. Osama asked to be granted his rights and complained that the general prosecution service had ignored the fact that an executive officer tore-up his family’s visitor permits to see him in prison. He added that the prison authorities are arbitrary in terms of the rights of detainees and tortured him intentionally by depriving him of medical treatment and visits.
In November the same year, Osama refused to accept his conviction, arguing that his imprisonment was political. He held the court responsible for violating his rights, which it had ignored in the previous hearing, and demanded that a lawyer be appointed for him.
On 27 January 2018, he denounced his and his companions’ isolation behind a glass partition in his cage, stating that the court cannot see them and he cannot see the prosecution and defence teams. Moreover, he pointed out that he did not even get to read the decision to transfer him to the investigation stage, and that neither his lawyer nor his family had been allowed to visit him. He denounced the fact that he was kept two metres away from his wife during a meeting outside the courtroom and that they had to shout in order to hear each other.
Last week, on 10 March, lawyer Toby Cadman revealed that Osama Morsi had started a hunger strike. Cadman expressed his deep concern about his client’s physical safety as he is still being held in poor conditions that violate internationally recognised standards. He called on the Egyptian authorities to abide by international law, noting that Osama faces the risk of being killed slowly, like his father before his death on 17 June last year. The Arab Organisation for Human Rights in the UK noted that Osama and the other detainees are prevented from exercising and that he is being held in solitary confinement, deprived of any contact with his family or his lawyer.
Why might the military regime in Egypt hold a grudge against Osama Morsi? For a start, he is known to be anti-coup. During the second round of the presidential election which his father won, he expressed his pro-revolution stance and condemned the Mubarak regime. On 6 August, 2013, he talked about his father’s arrest after the coup, which he described as foolish. He also revealed behind the scenes details about the coup, describing the coup leader and his collaborators as traitors and criminals. He thanked God that he was not born to a father like Al-Sisi and stated that his entire family participated in the January Revolution. This was followed by his younger brother Abdullah’s kidnapping by thugs, and his own kidnapping by Military Intelligence officers.
Osama explained that his father understood the events leading up to the coup very early and on 30 July, 2013, stressed that there is no clear constitutional and legal path for any procedure for the president and politicians to be kidnapped, peaceful protesters to be killed and detainees to be tortured in violation of the human rights charter. He also announced that the prosecutor general refused to accept complaints against Al-Sisi, the then Defence Minister, and when asked about his message to the revolutionaries, he said that he prayed for a new revolution. On 15 May, 2015, Osama accused the Egyptian regime of killing Muslim Brotherhood official Farid Ismail through medical negligence in the notorious Al-Aqrab Prison; Ismail’s funeral turned into a demonstration against the military regime.
There was a stark difference between the trials of Osama Morsi and the sons of the ousted President Hosni Mubarak. During Osama’s hearing, the courtroom was crowded and neither the audio nor the visual feeds were clear. Viewers could see his head, but struggled to understand what he was saying.
When Alaa and Gamal Mubarak entered court, however, it was to a calm, well-lit and organised courtroom, and they were guarded like they were by their personal bodyguards when their father was in office. The judge greeted them with a cheerful face and gentle words, asking the guards not to restrict their movements. Small microphones were clipped onto their clothing, while other microphones were placed on their tables, unlike the old-fashioned microphones held by Morsi’s son. Mubarak’s eldest son asked for his father to remain in his cell, as he could not appear in front of the judge due to his health. The judge said that the security authorities could find another place for the hearing which would accommodate Mubarak’s hospital bed. He then summoned the television director covering the trial and asked about the possibility of providing a camera inside the cage that portrayed clear audio and video. Smiling at Mubarak’s sons, he asked them to return to their cell.
Is the Egyptian regime trying to kill Osama Morsi? And will the world be silent until we wake up to the news of his death, as was the case with his brother and father? It certainly looks that way.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.