Mohammed Morsi, Egypt’s first democratically elected president, collapsed in court and died Monday while facing trial, prompting supporters and human rights activists to demand an impartial probe into his death.
A preliminary medical assessment found that Morsi, 67, showed signs of a possible heart attack or stroke, according to authorities and local media reports. He had been imprisoned since 2013, when his elected government was overthrown in a military coup led by the country’s then-military leader, Gen. Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, who is now president.
As news of his death spread, a chorus of Morsi’s backers, allies and watchdog groups raised questions about his treatment in prison. The former president was known to have been suffering from several ailments, including diabetes and liver disease.
A panel of British politicians and lawyers concluded last year that Morsi had received “inadequate medical care” and found that the conditions of detention could meet the threshold for “torture.”
“We feared that if Dr. Morsi was not provided with urgent medical assistance, the damage to his health may be permanent and possibly terminal,” Crispin Blunt, a British lawmaker who chaired the panel, said in a statement Monday. “Sadly, we have been proved right.”
Blunt called for an independent international investigation into Morsi’s death, as did Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood movement, which called his death a “murder.” Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International also pressed Egypt’s government to conduct an impartial and transparent probe.
Egyptian authorities were not immediately available for comment. The country’s public prosecutor, Nabil Ahmad Sadiq, said in a statement that Morsi “fainted and fell to the ground” after speaking for five minutes during his trial. He was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead, Sadiq said.
A “superficial medical examination had found no blood pressure or pulse or breathing,” Sadiq added, saying that Morsi’s pupils were dilated and not responsive to light and that he was dead on arrival at the hospital at 4.50 p.m.
“There were no visible, recent external injuries on the body of the deceased,” the prosecutor said, adding that a report is being prepared on the cause of Morsi’s death.