Fr Rafic: No shadow over Morsi's death, but fears of attacks by the Muslim Brotherhood
The former leader died of a heart attack at the end of a court hearing in which he was charged with espionage. Erdogan blames Egypt’s “tyrants". Fr Rafic dismisses doubts over his death voiced by Western governments and international NGOs. He is sorry for Morsi’s death, but the latter ruled “in a catastrophic way” and was “the first to bend the Constitution”.
Cairo (AsiaNews) – Mohamed Morsi "was ill” and had "a brain tumor before he was elected president”. His health was "delicate" and the stress from the trial "may have weakened his condition even more.” There are no other elements except health “behind his death,” this according to Fr Rafic Greiche, president of the Media Committee of the Council of Churches of Egypt, who spoke to AsiaNews following the sudden death of Egypt’s former president, who was affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood.
"I recently read news on Western media, especially French, that doubts surround his death or that he may have been killed, but that is not the case,” Fr Rafic said. “During his years of imprisonment, he was hospitalised three or four times in the best hospitals. The government did everything to ensure the best care."
The former president, who died yesterday in Cairo following a heart arrest during his trial for espionage, was buried this morning at dawn in Nasr City, eastern Cairo, amid tight security. Family members and a few other people were present at the service.
His son Ahmed told Reuters that Egyptian authorities denied a request for a public funeral in his hometown, fearing demonstrations. In fact, the government declared a state of maximum alert and boosted security measures, concerned about possible attacks or street protests.
Morsi, 67, had asked permission to speak to the court in his trial; at the end of his testimony he collapsed and never recovered. The Muslim Brotherhood took advantage of his death, by describing it as murder. The organisation called on Egyptians to gather at the funeral.
The Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, expressed condolences to the family. Words of support also came from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who blamed Egypt’s "tyrants" for Morsi’s death due to his imprisonment.
Western NGOs and governments have questions about how well the late president’s human rights were protected.
For Fr Rafic, "The stress caused by the trial may have affected his health and already weakened conditions; however, this is far from being killed because he was on trial. The latter is mere media speculation, far from the truth." At present, "the streets are quiet and there have been no incidents or protests" during the funeral.
President Al-Sisi is abroad, in Belarus on an official visit. He "chose not to return" to show that the situation is under control.
"Egyptians are tired of the Muslim Brotherhood,” Fr Rafic noted. “There is a lot of talk about them abroad, in Qatar and Turkey, but here nobody wants their return." Of course, "there is the danger that someone might try to attack churches, places of worship, police barracks or other sensitive sites to stir tensions or revenge, but for us he belongs to the past."
Morsi was "a puppet in the hands of the Brotherhood, and even to them he did not matter anymore until yesterday. What matters to them is the community itself and the people useful to their cause, so it is not inconceivable that his death will be used as a tool of propaganda, especially in the West."
At a human level, "we are sorry for his death and we sympathise with his family, despite the total disagreement on the way he governed the country for a year, in a catastrophic way".
"Many, especially in the West, remember him as the first democratically elected president and speak about violations of human rights, democracy. But he was the first to bend the Constitution in November 2012, with a decree that centralised power in his hands and in fact violated the constitution and its principles.”
Morsi, the "democratic" president who wanted to govern with the Sharia (PROFILE)
Born in El-Adwah, a village in the northern governorate of Sharqia, on 20 August, 1951, Mohamed Morsi was the fifth president in the history of Egypt and the first to be elected democratically.
He studied engineering at the University of Cairo where he graduated in the 1970s, then moved to the United States for his doctorate.
A leader of the Freedom and Justice party (close to the Muslim Brotherhood, one of the most important Islamic political organisations in the world), he worked at the University of California between 1982 and 1985, before returning to Egypt to head the engineering department at the University of Zagazig.
During this period, he started his political career in the Muslim Brotherhood, which at that time still operated in semi-clandestine conditions. Elected as an independent to the Egyptian parliament in 2002, he joined the movement’s Guidance Office. He was not re-elected in 2005.
Both inside and outside Parliament, Morsi became an advocate of Islamic morality and customs, slamming the government for allowing the circulation of magazines with covers showing nudity and TV programmes with "immoral" scenes. He also attacked Miss Egypt pageant, which he believed was contrary to Egypt’s social norms, the Sharia and the Constitution.
In April 2012, following the uprising that led to the downfall of President Hosni Mubarak, the Muslim Brotherhood chose Morsi as its presidential candidate. He went on to win to become Egypt’s first democratically president with 51 per cent of the vote against 48 pre cent for Ahmed Shafiq, an establishment candidate and a former prime minister under Mubarak.
Morsi remained in office until 3 July 2013, when he was deposed by a military coup led by current president al-Sisi. As head of state, he wanted to build a "non-theocratic" country but based on Islamic law, whilst granting women greater space in public life.
A little over a year after his election, growing economic difficulties and opposition to the radical Islamisation of the country led many Egyptians (even Christians, who represent 10 per cent of the population) to call for his removal from office.
The military who ousted him were supported by the leader of the secular opposition Mohamed el-Baradei, by the great imam of al-Azhar al-Tayyib, and by the leader of the Coptic Church, Pope Tawadros II.
At the time of his overthrow, he was placed under house arrest for instigating violence and for espionage. On 29 January 2014, he was put on trial again, this time for escaping the Wadi al-Natrun prison where he was detained during the Egyptian revolution of 2011.
In May 2015 he was sentenced to death by a Cairo court, but on 14 November of the following year the sentence was overturned and a new trial was ordered. He died on 17 June 2019 from a heart attack during a court hearing. He had type 1 diabetes.