It speaks volumes that the first and only democratically elected president of Egypt dropped dead on Monday inside the glass cage he was confined to in a Cairo courtroom, where he was facing the latest in a long series of unfair trials. Mohammed Morsi did a poor job as Egyptian president before being ousted in a bloody military coup by the country’s current dictator, Abdel Fatah al-Sissi. But the gross mistreatment Morsi was subjected to over the past six years offers a vivid demonstration of how human rights have regressed in a country that once aspired to set political standards for the Middle East.
Morsi was thrust into the center of Egypt’s democratic revolution after he was chosen by the Muslim Brotherhood, the country’s most popular political movement, as its candidate in the presidential election of 2012. An engineer by training, he had few political skills. Though he surprised his Islamist movement’s foes by seeking good relations with the U.S. and maintaining Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel, he resorted to autocratic methods in an effort to best secular opponents, as well as the entrenched military. The result was mass popular demonstrations that provided a pretext for Sissi’s July 2013 coup and the bloody repression that followed.
Morsi was jailed with tens of thousands of others, most of whom remain in prison. For the past six years, he was held in solitary confinement.
His protests and those of outside monitors that he was not being adequately treated for his medical conditions, including diabetes and liver problems, were ignored; a panel of British lawyers and politicians found last year that his treatment could be described as “torture.” Meanwhile he was subjected to multiple trials on a host of trumped-up charges, most recently espionage.
Human-rights advocates, including at the United Nations, called for an independent investigation of Morsi’s death — an inquiry that is as unlikely as it is needed. But perhaps his story will focus greater attention on the depravity of the Sissi regime.
In addition to the tens of thousands imprisoned, thousands of other Muslim Brotherhood members or regime opponents have been tortured or murdered outright by security forces. The secular political parties and civil society groups that opposed Morsi have been destroyed; a once-pluralist press has been silenced.
The U.S. has consistently enabled this horrific record, continuing to provide the military with $1.3 billion in annual aid. Congress has imposed human rights conditions only to see them waived by the Trump administration. President Donald Trump has received Sissi twice at the White House and described him as a “great president.” Let the record show that this particular great president just presided over the cruel and unjust death of his predecessor.
FROM AN EDITORIAL IN THE WASHINGTON POST