World

UN human rights office wants probe into death of ex-Egyptian president Morsi

The UN human rights office has called for an independent investigation into the death of Egypt's former president, Mohammed Morsi, saying it should encompass all aspects of his treatment during nearly six years in custody.

Morsi, toppled in a coup in 2013, died from a heart attack after collapsing while on trial

Egypt's former president Mohammed Morsi, shown in 2012, has been buried after he collapsed at trial and died Monday. (Maya Alleruzzo/Associated Press)

The UN human rights office on Tuesday called for an independent investigation into the death of Egypt's former president, Mohammed Morsi, saying it should encompass all aspects of his treatment during nearly six years in custody.

Morsi, 67, died on Monday from a heart attack after collapsing in a Cairo court while on trial on espionage charges, authorities and a medical source said.

"Concerns have been raised regarding the conditions of [Morsi's] detention, including access to adequate medical care, as well as sufficient access to his lawyers and family, during his nearly six years in custody," UN human rights spokesperson Rupert Colville said in a statement. "He also appears to have been held in prolonged solitary confinement."

"The investigation should be carried out by a judicial or other competent authority that is independent of the detaining authority and mandated to conduct prompt, impartial and effective investigations into the circumstances and causes of his death," he said.

Amnesty International on Monday called for an investigation, saying Egyptian authorities had "an appalling track record of detaining prisoners in prolonged solitary confinement and in dire conditions, as well as subjecting prisoners to torture and other ill treatment."

British parliamentarians, among others, had raised concerns about the confinement and access to medical treatment of Morsi, who's shown in May 8, 2014 photo. (Tarek el-Gabbas/Associated Press)

A British parliamentary panel said last year that Morsi had received inadequate medical treatment for diabetes and liver illness and was being kept in solitary confinement, which could put his life in danger.

Burial in home province

Ahmed Morsi, son of the first democratically elected head of state in Egypt's modern history, said earlier Tuesday on his own Facebook page that his father had been buried alongside other senior figures of the Muslim Brotherhood in Cairo.

The burial was attended by members of the family in Cairo's Nasr City after authorities refused burial in Morsi's home province of Sharqiya in the Nile Delta, Ahmed Morsi said.

"We washed his noble body at Tora prison hospital, read prayers for him at the prison hospital ... and the burial was at the Muslim Brotherhood spiritual guides," Ahmed wrote.

Supporters responded to the son's post with messages of grief and anger.

A top figure in the now-banned Muslim Brotherhood, Morsi had been in jail since being toppled by the military in 2013 after barely a year in power, following mass protests against his rule.

A woman holds a picture of Morsi prior to a funeral prayer in absentia for him at Fatih Mosque in Istanbul on Tuesday. Prayers were held in mosques across Turkey for Morsi, who had close ties to the Turkish president. (Emrah Gurel/Associated Press)

Morsi's death is likely to increase international pressure on the Egyptian government over its human rights record, especially conditions in prisons where thousands of Islamists and secular activists are held.

It is also a sensitive moment for Egyptian authorities. Under President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who as army chief led Morsi's ouster, they have conducted a relentless crackdown against the Muslim Brotherhood and its followers, but say the group presents a continuing security threat.

I am condemning the western world and humanity, who watched Morsi taken down in a coup and tortured in a prison cell.- Tayyip Erdogan, president of Turkey

Sisi, 64, has consolidated his power, with an election last year in which no serious opposition was allowed, as well as a recent referendum on a constitutional amendment that could see him serve as president until at least 2030.

The Brotherhood says it is a non-violent movement.

Former allies of Morsi and opponents of Sisi expressed their condolences in social media posts, some condemning the conditions in which Morsi had been held.

"With great sadness and deep sorrow I received the news of the passing of Dr Mohamed [Morsi]. I ask God to accept him with his great mercy," said former leftist presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabbahi.

Demonstrations, tributes – outside of Egypt

Qatar's emir and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas paid tribute to him, some Pakistan groups expressed sympathy and Iran expressed its regret over Morsi's death.

"The Islamic Republic of Iran, while respecting the views of the great and brave nation of Egypt, offers its sympathies over the death of Dr. Mohammed Morsi to the Egyptian people, his family and his loved ones," a statement from the foreign ministry's spokesperson said.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan was more incendiary while speaking at a rally ahead of a June 23 rerun of Istanbul's mayoral election.

Erdogan called Morsi "a martyr" and condemned those who stood by as the former president was imprisoned.

"I am condemning the Western world and humanity, who watched Mursi taken down in a coup and tortured in a prison cell," Erdogan told hundreds of cheering supporters.

Hundreds of supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood in Turkey took to the streets of Ankara and Istanbul on Tuesday.

Members of the Ankara crowd chanted: "Murderer Sisi, martyr Morsi" and held up banners reading, "Putschists will be defeated," a reference to Morsi's overthrow.

"We will take back our country from the military coup, and that day, we will go to the tomb of [Morsi] and pray to thank him for staying in prison for six years to free our country of tyrants," said Mumin Ashraf, 25, an Egyptian man studying in Ankara.

Supporters of the political and religious party Jama'at e Islami pray Tuesday in Peshawar at a service for Morsi. A similar service was held in Turkey on Tuesday near the Egyptian Embassy in Ankara. (Fayaz Aziz/Reuters)

By contrast, in central Cairo on Tuesday morning, there were no signs of protests. Egypt has cracked down on Islamist groups since Morsi's ouster.

There had been a heavy security presence on Monday night around the Cairo prison where Morsi had been held and in Sharqiya, where security sources said the interior ministry had declared a state of alert.

Egyptian media, which is tightly controlled, gave the news little attention.

Just one of the major daily newspapers, the privately owned Al-Masry Al-Youm, put the story on its front page, with other newspapers ignoring the news or carrying a small item on inside pages with no mention that Morsi had been president.