Former president Mohamed Morsi, who died this week, was a key figure in the constant upheaval that Egypt has gone through since the events leading to the ouster of his predecessor Hosni Mubarak. Having become Egypt’s first democratically elected President in the wake of a violent movement against Mubarak’s autocratic role, Morsi himself was ousted a year later, amid a movement against perceived attempts to monoplise power and Islamise Egypt.
Educated as an engineer, Morsi, 67, belonged to the Muslim Brotherhood, which won the elections after Mubarak’s fall in 2011, followed by Morsi winning the presidential elections in June 2012, which made him the first civilian to hold the office. This was until the military ousted him in July 2013, dissolved Parliament and eventually banned the Brotherhood as a “terrorist group”.
Morsi had promised to head a government “for all Egyptians”, but critics complained he failed to deliver. Besides accusing him of allowing Islamists to monopolise politics, critics said he mishandled the economy and failed to deal with the very issues that had led to the uprising that brought him to power: calls for rights and social justice, BBC News explained.
Among the moves that turned public opinion against him, Morsi had issued a decree granting himself far-reaching powers (a move aimed at enabling the Islamists to draft a new Constitution). This and other moves led to clashes between his opponents and supporters, leaving more than 50 people dead, BBC News said.
On the first anniversary of his coming to power, millions of protesters took to the streets across Egypt. On July 3, the army took over, suspending the Constitution and announcing the formation of an interim government. Morsi was arrested by the army, then headed by Abdul Fatah al-Sisi, who is now President.
After his fall
Morsi was initially sentenced to death; the ruling was later overturned. His arrest led to more protests, and an army crackdown in which almost 1,000 people were killed, according to figures cited by BBC News. Violence involving Islamist insurgents increased, and the Muslim Brotherhood was eventually declared a terrorist group.
Morsi was accused of inciting his supporters to murder a journalist and two opposition protesters during clashes in December 2012, and ordering the torture and unlawful detention of others. Acquitted of murder, he was sentenced to 20 years in jail for ordering the torture and detention of protesters. The death sentence (later overturned) came on subsequent charges. At the first hearing, he reportedly shouted from the dock and rejected the authority of the courts to try him.
When he died — reportedly collapsing in court — he was on trial for espionage. He was buried under heavy security early on Tuesday. All through, he continued to insist he was Egypt’s President.
While Morsi was in jail and seen in public only when he appeared in court, Mubarak was released from jail. This, BBC News said, was “a signal to many that Egypt had not particularly moved on since before the elections which brought Morsi, briefly, to power”.