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Egypt's ousted former President Mohamed Morsi collapses in courtroom, dies

Salma Islam and Laura King, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

CAIRO -- Ousted former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, imprisoned since the military removed him from office in 2013, died Monday after collapsing during a court hearing, state television reported.

The country's first democratically elected president and a leader of the now-outlawed Muslim Brotherhood movement, the 67-year-old California-educated Morsi lasted only a year in office before his defense minister, Abdel Fattah Sisi, moved to wrest power from him. Sisi has been president ever since.

Morsi's death, which followed years of reports of his health deteriorating in prison, was a dramatic new inflection point in Egypt's tumultuous journey from the massive Arab Spring protests of 2011 that toppled Hosni Mubarak, a dictator of decades' standing, and the country's subsequent slide into a new era of repression under Sisi.

State television said Morsi collapsed during a court session that was part of his trial for espionage, one of dozens of legal proceedings that punctuated his years of imprisonment on an array of charges. At one point he was sentenced to death.

In early courtroom appearances, he defiantly maintained that he was the country's legitimate president.

The government's violent 2013 crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood and its supporters, which left hundreds dead and virtually all the movement's major leaders jailed or in exile, fractured Egyptian society.

Morsi was a deeply unpopular president, his rule marked by a clumsily authoritarian style of governance, but the Brotherhood, while Islamist in nature, was a mainstream movement that had been allowed relative freedom under Mubarak and was enmeshed in many major institutions.

All that changed with Morsi's ouster. The Brotherhood was branded a terrorist group, and Sisi presided over a dismantling of many basic freedoms in the name of fighting terrorism. At the same time, more radical Islamist groups emerged, waging an armed battle against Egypt's security forces.


The Brotherhood denounced Morsi's treatment in prison, saying he had been deprived of needed healthcare and given only rare family visits. Its exiled leaders openly blamed Sisi's government for his abrupt demise.

"It's not a regular death," said Mohamed Soudan, a Britain-based senior member of the Brotherhood's political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party. "This is a murder, 100%."

(Special correspondent Islam reported from Cairo and Times staff writer King from Washington.)

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