Egypt's ousted former President Mohamed Morsi died after fainting in a courtroom during a hearing on espionage charges Monday, Egyptian state television reported.
The 67-year-old won his country’s first free presidential election in 2012, but was ousted by the military following mass protests the following year.
Morsi, a leading figure in the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood movement, had been serving lengthy jail sentences since his ouster from power. He was serving a 20-year sentence on a conviction related to the deaths of protesters during 2012 demonstrations, and a concurrent life sentence for espionage in a case related to Qatar.
The former president was appearing in a Cairo court Monday over espionage charges related to alleged contacts with Hamas, Egyptian state television reported.
During his little more than a year in office, Morsi issued decrees that dramatically consolidated his power, eventually triggering protests and later a military coup that sparked his downfall.
After Morsi was removed from power, Egypt’s military rulers banned the Muslim Brotherhood and instigated a crackdown on his followers. The country’s military and Interior Ministry announced a state of high alert Monday after his death was announced, amid fears the news could trigger protests and rioting.
Morsi’s sudden death prompted a swift response from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who hailed him as a martyr. “May Allah rest our Morsi brother, our martyr's soul in peace,” he said.
Others blasted the harsh treatment Morsi had experienced in Egyptian prison.
Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director for Human Rights Watch, said Morsi had been treated poorly by Egyptian authorities during his six years in prison.
“This is terrible but entirely predictable, given [government] failure to allow him adequate medical care, much less family visits,” she tweeted.
Morsi’s youngest son, Abdullah, had complained about his father’s treatment — being held in solitary confinement and denied treatment for diabetes and high blood pressure. He wrote in a Washington Post op-ed in March 2018 that his family feared “that the Egyptian authorities are doing this on purpose, since they want to see him dead ‘from natural causes’ as soon as possible.”
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Cover: Egypt's ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi sits in a soundproof glass cage inside a makeshift courtroom at Egypt’s national police academy in Cairo, Egypt, Tuesday, April 21, 2015. An Egyptian criminal court on Tuesday, sentenced Morsi to 20 years in prison over the killing of protesters in 2012, the first verdict to be issued against the country’s first freely elected leader. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)