Ousted Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi dies after collapsing in court
Muslim Brotherhood calls his death 'premeditated murder'
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 in the cage, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the press.
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-defence minister Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi, ousted Morsi after massive protests against the Brotherhood's domination of power. El-Sisi was subsequently elected president and has waged a massive crackdown on Islamists and other opponents since.
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 months or nearly a year. He complained before that he doesn't get his medicine. This is premeditated murder. This is slow death."
The Brotherhood later put out a statement calling Morsi's death a "full-fledged murder." It called on Egyptians to gather for a mass funeral and urged people around the world to gather outside Egyptian embassies.
Cause of death not yet known
A judicial official said Morsi had asked to speak to the court during the session, and the judge permitted it. Morsi gave a speech saying he had "many secrets" that, if he told, he would be released, but he added that he wasn't telling them because it would harm Egypt's national security.
In his final comments, he continued to insist he was Egypt's legitimate president, demanding a special tribunal, one of his defence lawyers, Kamel Madour told The Associated Press. State TV said Morsi died before he could be taken to the hospital.
The Brotherhood accused the government of "assassinating" Morsi through years of poor prison conditions during which he was often kept in solitary and barred from visits. Egypt's chief prosecutor said a team of forensic experts would examine Morsi's body to determine the cause of his death.
Morsi's family previously said his health had deteriorated in prison and that they were rarely allowed to visit.
His son Abdullah Mohamed Morsi told Reuters that the family had not been contacted about the details of the burial and officials were only communicating with the family through their lawyers.
Morsi's son had said earlier that authorities were refusing to allow him to be laid to rest in the family burial grounds in his native Nile Delta province of Sharqiya.
"We know nothing about him and no one is in touch with us, and we don't know if we are going to wash him or say a prayer to him or not," he said.
State of alert
Security sources said the Interior Ministry had declared a state of alert on Monday following his death, notably in Sharqiya.
It was a dramatic end for a figure who was central in the twists and turns taken by Egypt since the pro-democracy uprising that in 2011 ousted the country's longtime authoritarian leader, Hosni Mubarak.
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 also secular activists who were behind the 2011 uprising.
Morsi and other Brotherhood leaders have been in prison, undergoing multiple trials. Morsi was 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.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan mourned his fellow Islamist as a martyr.
"Putting doubts aside, he has become a martyr today with the fulfilment of God's order.... Our prayers are with him," Erdogan said.
"Condolences to all my brothers who walked the same path as he did. Condolences to the people of Egypt. Condolences to his family and those close to him."
Qatar's emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, a backer of Morsi and his Brotherhood, tweeted his condolences to Morsi's family "and to the brotherly Egyptian people."
With files from Reuters