Egypt’s ousted president Mohamed Morsi has collapsed during a court session and died, almost six years after he was forced from power in a bloody coup.
Morsi, 67, was attending a session in his trial on espionage charges on Monday when he blacked out and then died, according to state media.
“He asked the judge to speak, and was allowed. After the case was adjourned, he fainted and died. His body was then transferred to the hospital,” reported the Egyptian state newspaper Al-Ahram, referring to Morsi’s ongoing retrial for allegedly spying for the Palestinian Islamist organisation Hamas.
Morsi became president in 2012, following Egypt’s first and only free elections after the dictator Hosni Mubarak was forced from power. He won 51.7% of the vote and his rule marked the peak of power for Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, which had functioned for decades as an underground political organisation.
But his time in power was cut short a year later as demonstrators once again took to the streets – this time to protest against Morsi’s rule. Egypt’s military seized power in a coup days later on 3 July 2013, bringing the then defence minister, Abdel-Fatah al-Sisi, to power.
As president, Sisi has overseen an extensive crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood and anyone suspected of supporting the group, which Egypt now considers a terrorist organisation.
Morsi was arrested after the 2013 coup and has faced trial on three separate counts of leaking state secrets to Qatar, killing protesters during a sit-in outside the presidential palace and spying for Hamas.
He received multiple long sentences including a life sentence for spying for Qatar and a 20-year sentence for killing protesters. A death sentence for charges relating to a mass jailbreak during the revolution was overturned in a retrial in November 2016.
The former president, who had a history of ill health, including diabetes, and liver and kidney disease, was held in solitary confinement in Tora prison in Cairo.
In 2018, a panel of three British parliamentarians reported that Morsi was being kept in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day, with just one hour allowed for exercise. The group, led by Crispin Blunt, said the conditions of Morsi’s confinement could be classified as torture and could also cut short his life.
“We accept the opinion that the consequence of this inadequate care is likely to be rapid deterioration of his long-term conditions, which is likely to lead to premature death,” they said.