CAIRO Egypt’s former president, Mohammed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood leader who rose to office in the country’s first free elections in 2012 and was ousted a year later by the military, collapsed in court during a trial and died Monday, state TV and his family said.
The 67-year-old Morsi had just addressed the court, speaking from the glass cage he is kept in during sessions and warning that he had “many secrets” he could reveal, a judicial official said.
A few minutes afterward, he collapsed, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the press.
State TV said Morsi died before he could be taken to the hospital.
Morsi has been in prison undergoing multiple trials ever since the military ousted him in July 2013 and launched a massive crackdown on his Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists.
Monday’s session was part of a retrial, being held inside Cairo’s Tura Prison, on charges of espionage with the Palestinian Hamas militant group.
Morsi’s son, Ahmed, confirmed the death of his father in a Facebook post.
Mohammed Sudan, leading member of the Muslim Brotherhood in London, described Morsi’s death as “premeditated murder” saying that the former president was banned from receiving medicine or visits and there was little information about his health condition.
“He has been placed behind glass cage (during trials). No one can hear him or know what is happening to him. He hasn’t received any visits for a months or nearly a year. He complained before that he doesn’t get his medicine. This is premediated murder. This is slow death.”
The judicial official said Morsi had asked to speak to the court during the session. The judge permitted it, and Morsi gave a speech saying he had “many secrets” that, if he told them, he would be released, but he added that he wasn’t telling them because it would harm Egypt’s national security.
A spokesman for the Interior Ministry did not answer calls seeking comment.
Morsi was a longtime senior figure in Egypt’s most powerful Islamist group, the Muslim Brotherhood. He was elected in 2012 in the country’s first free presidential election, held a year after an Arab Spring uprising ousted Egypt’s longtime authoritarian leader Hosni Mubarak.
His Muslim Brotherhood also held a majority in parliament.
The military, led by then-Defense Minister Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, ousted Morsi after massive protests against the Brotherhood’s domination of power. El-Sissi was subsequently elected president and has waged a massive crackdown on Islamists and other opponents sinse.
Since Morsi’s ouster, Egypt’s government has declared the Brotherhood a terrorist organization and largely crushed it with a heavy crackdown. Tens of thousands of Egyptians have been arrested since 2013, mainly Islamists but secular activists who were behind the 2011 uprising.
He has been sentenced to 20 years after being convicted of ordering Brotherhood members to break up a protest against him, resulting in deaths.
An earlier death sentence was overturned. Multiple cases are still pending.
Morsi was held in a special wing in the sprawling Tora detention complex nicknamed Scorpion Prison. Rights groups say its poor conditions fall far below Egyptian and international standards.
Morsi: from Egypt election triumph to death as inmate
Mohamed Morsi, who died Monday aged 67, was Egypt’s first democratically elected president but spent just one turbulent year in office after the 2011 uprising before the army toppled him.
The Islamist’s overthrow was followed by a brutal crackdown that killed hundreds of supporters of his Muslim Brotherhood movement and dealt a major blow to political Islam.
Morsi was sentenced to death in May 2015 for his role in jailbreaks during the uprising that ousted his predecessor, longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak.
He successfully appealed and was awaiting the final ruling of a retrial when he died in a Cairo hospital after fainting during an “animated” session in court, judicial and security sources said.
A veteran activist and engineering professor, Morsi was among the Brotherhood leaders detained during the 18-day anti-Mubarak revolt in 2011, escaping with thousands of inmates who broke out of prison.
The son of a farmer, he was not the Brotherhood’s first choice for president.
Nicknamed “The Spare Tyre”, Morsi emerged as a compromise candidate to run in Egypt’s first democratic presidential election in 2012.
Hailing from the movement’s political wing — the Freedom and Justice Party — he was put forward after one of the Brotherhood’s powerful financiers, Khairat al-Shater, was disqualified on technical grounds.
Many voters chose Morsi in a protest vote against Mubarak’s last prime minister, Ahmed Shafiq, and he narrowly won.
When taking office in June 2012, the bearded and bespectacled Islamist promised to be president “of all Egyptians” and was feted by cheering crowds in Cairo’s iconic Tahrir Square.
Months after his election win, Morsi issued a decree that in effect shielded his decisions from judicial review, sparking deadly clashes outside his palace.
He was removed by his then-defence minister and army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on July 3, 2013 after millions took to the streets demanding his resignation. Sisi became president a year later.
Morsi denounced a “coup” and his supporters insisted he was still the legitimate president of the Arab world’s most populous nation.
Hundreds were killed in clashes that erupted when security forces dispersed two pro-Morsi protest camps in Cairo in August 2013.
Thousands of Morsi supporters were imprisoned in a crackdown and rights groups accused Sisi’s regime of being even more repressive than the Mubarak authorities.
Morsi himself was put on trial several times on charges ranging from killing protesters to jailbreaks to spying for Iran, Qatar, and militant groups Hamas and Hezbollah.
In the first verdict against him, a Cairo court convicted Morsi of inciting violence against protesters during December 2012 clashes after he decreed that his decisions could not be challenged by the judiciary.
He was sentenced to 20 years in jail in that case, and later received two life sentences in espionage cases.
Morsi steadfastly rejected the authority of Egypt’s courts to try him and launched frequent tirades against Sisi from the dock and accused military chiefs of violating the constitution.
“I am Dr Mohamed Morsi, the president of the republic… This was a military coup. The leaders of the coup should be tried,” Morsi said on the opening day of his first trial in November 2013.
He was later put in a soundproof glass dock to stop him interrupting the proceedings with outbursts.
Born on August 8, 1951 in the village of El-Adwah in the Nile Delta province of Sharqiya, Morsi graduated with an engineering degree from Cairo University.
He received a doctorate from the University of Southern California, where he was also an assistant professor in the early 1980s.
Morsi first entered the political arena in 2000 when he was elected to parliament as an independent, given the Mubarak-era ban on the Brotherhood.
He was a lawmaker until 2005 and served seven months in jail in 2006 for taking part in a demonstration in support of reformist judges.
In 2010, Morsi became a spokesman for the Brotherhood and a member of its politburo.
He was married with five children and three grandchildren.