Obituary: Egypt’s first freely elected President Mohamed Morsi


Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s first democratically elected president,has diedat the age of 67 after a court appearance in Cairo, according to state media.

A member of theMuslim Brotherhoodorganisation, Morsi came to office in June 2012 after winning51.7 percentof the vote in a national election, in the aftermath of Egypt’s 2011 revolution.

However, just one short, roiling year later, Morsi’s time in office was cut short in a military takeover amid massive popular protests against his rule.

He was overthrown on July 3, 2013, in a coup staged by current PresidentAbdel Fattah el-Sisiand placed under house arrest before being moved to prison.

In 2015, he was sentenced to 20 years in prison for ordering the arrest and torture of protesters during demonstrations in 2012.

He was also tried in several different cases on charges ranging from leaking intelligence information to collaborating with foreign forces to free prisoners from jail in 2011.

In 2016, he was handed a life sentence for espionage in a case related to the Gulf state ofQatar.

He was on trial for a separate espionage charge when he collapsed in court and later died on June 17, 2019.

Early days with the Muslim Brotherhood

Morsi came of political age among the Muslim Brotherhood generation that demonstrated on university campuses in the 1970s, but he was not part of this protesting group.

“He wasn’t a student leader; he joined the Brotherhood relatively late,” said Abdullah al-Arian, assistant professor at the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in Qatar who specialises in modern Islamist movements.

“Instead, he was what you might call a loyal member who deferred to the senior leadership, and because of his loyalty was rewarded through continuous promotion.”

Later, Morsi was part of the cohort that wedged a space for the Brotherhood under Hosni Mubarak’s government, earning himself a seat in Parliament in 2000.

Under Mubarak, the Brotherhood enjoyed what scholar Mona el-Ghobasy calls “de facto toleration”. But the group occupied an uneasy space in Mubarak’s regime, especially after it won 20 percent of the country’s parliamentary seats in 2005.

Election fraud denied Morsi another term in Parliament and when Morsi spoke out, participating in a demonstration that supported judges who wanted more independence, he wassentencedto jail for seven months.

Political rise

Born in a conservative town on the Nile Delta, Morsi sketched an interesting political figure. He earned a PhD from a university in California, United States, headed the engineering department at one of Egypt’s biggest universities, and his profile on the Brotherhood website boasted a consulting stint with the NASA space programme (perplexingly, Morsi later denied ever having worked there in a local TV interview).

Morsi took strong stances on social practices he viewed as blasphemous.

In 2011, he led a boycott of a major Egyptian mobile phone company because its owner had tweeted cartoon depictions of Minnie Mouse in a face veil.

Four years earlier, he had been tasked with helping author a position paper for the Guidance Council, the Brotherhood’s ruling group.

The final mandates included a ban on women and Coptic Christians from serving as president, as well as the formation of a council of Islamic scholars to advise Parliament on the law. Their role would be extra-constitutional, but non-binding.

Bu by 2012, a newly elected Morsi had refined his stance.

“I will not prevent a woman from being nominated as a candidate for the presidency,” he told a New York Times reporter. “This is not in the Constitution. This is not in the law. But if you want to ask me if I will vote for her or not, that is something else, that is different.”

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