CAIRO: Egypt’s first democratically elected president Mohamed Morsi was buried Tuesday, as calls mounted for an independent investigation into the causes of his death after he collapsed in a Cairo courtroom.
The Islamist leader, who was overthrown in 2013 after a year of divisive rule and later charged with espionage, was buried at a cemetery in eastern Cairo’s Medinat Nasr, one of his lawyers said.
Abdel Moneim Abdel Maksoud said family members had washed Morsi’s body and prayed the last rites early Tuesday morning at the Leeman Tora Hospital.
That lies near the prison where Egypt’s first civilian president, a prominent Muslim Brotherhood member, had been held for six years in solitary confinement and deteriorating health.
The prosecutor general’s office said the 67-year-old leader had collapsed and “died as he attended a hearing” Monday over alleged collaboration with foreign powers and militant groups.
Abdel Maksoud told AFP that only around 10 family members and close Morsi confidants were present at the funeral, including himself.
An AFP reporter saw a handful of mourners entering the cemetery complex, accompanied by police officers, but journalists were prevented from entering the site.
The graveyard is in the same suburb as the largest massacre in Egypt’s modern history, the August 2013 crackdown on Islamist sit-ins at two Cairo squares, weeks after Morsi’s ouster by the military.
Over 800 people were killed in a single day as security forces moved against protesters demanding Morsi’s reinstatement.
The attorney general’s office said Morsi, who appeared “animated”, had addressed the court Monday for five minutes before falling to the ground inside the defendants’ glass cage.
Another of Morsi’s lawyers, Osama El Helw, said other defendants had started banging on the glass, “screaming loudly that Morsi had died”.
The attorney general said Morsi had been “transported immediately to the hospital”, where medics pronounced him dead — a version confirmed by a judicial source.
KILLING HIM SOFTLY
Since Morsi’s overthrow on July 3, 2013, his former defence minister, now President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, has waged an ongoing crackdown that has seen thousands of Muslim Brotherhood supporters jailed and hundreds facing death sentences.
Rights groups have demanded an independent probe into Morsi’s detention conditions and death.
The Brotherhood’s political wing — the Freedom and Justice Party — accused Egyptian authorities of “deliberately killing him slowly” in solitary confinement.
“They withheld medication and gave him disgusting food,” it said in a statement. “They did not grant him the most basic human rights.”
The Egyptian government has not officially commented on his death.
His death barely rated a mention in local press, which referred to him by his full name but not his position as former president.
Morsi last saw his family in September 2018. A month later, one of his sons, Abdallah, was arrested.
Abdel Maksoud was the last member of his defence team to see him, in November 2017.
Rights group Amnesty International urged Egyptian authorities to open “an impartial, thorough and transparent investigation” into his death.
Human Rights Watch echoed that demand, saying Morsi had suffered years of “insufficient access to medical care” and calling on the UN Human Rights Council to investigate “ongoing gross violations of human rights in Egypt”.
A group of British parliamentarians in March 2018 warned that his detention conditions, particularly inadequate treatment for his diabetes and liver disease, could trigger his “premature death”.
“Sadly, we have been proved right,” said Crispin Blunt, the MP who chaired the committee, in a statement Tuesday.
“The only step now is a reputable independent international investigation.”
Other Brotherhood leaders have also died in custody.
Allies such as Qatar, widely seen as backing the Muslim Brotherhood, paid tribute to Morsi.
In Turkey, thousands joined in prayers for the former president in Istanbul’s Fatih mosque on Tuesday. Ankara was one of Morsi’s key supporters.
But in his homeland, Morsi has a chequered legacy.
He spent a turbulent year in office before being toppled by the military following millions-strong protests demanding his resignation.
He has been in prison since his ouster, facing trial on charges including for spying for Iran, Qatar and militant groups such as Hamas.
Morsi was also accused of plotting terrorist acts.
He was sentenced to death in May 2015 for his role in jailbreaks during the uprising that ousted his predecessor, longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak. Morsi appealed and was being retried.
Morsi’s turbulent rule was marked by widening schisms in Egyptian society, a crippling economic crisis and often-deadly opposition protests.
His death comes days before Egypt hosts the Africa Cup of Nations football tournament, starting Friday.
Authorities have been on high alert, announcing on Facebook Monday that thousands of forces would be deployed to secure venues.
An official from the Confederation of African Football said the security situation had not been affected by Morsi’s death, and that the tournament would go ahead as planned