Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared on Wednesday that the Egyptian government murdered former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi and vowed to “do whatever it takes to prosecute Egypt in international courts.”
67-year-old Morsi collapsed in court after delivering a heated statement to the judge in his trial for acts of espionage allegedly committed in 2011 during the ouster of his predecessor, Hosni Mubarak. Morsi later died in the hospital. The preliminary ruling held he died of a heart attack, but his family accused the government of causing his health to deteriorate in prison.
Erdogan, like the international Islamist Muslim Brotherhood that claimed Morsi as a leader, alleged Morsi was deliberately murdered by the government of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who ousted him in 2013.
“Mohamed Morsi was on the ground of the courtroom flailing for 20 minutes. No official there intervened. Morsi did not die a natural death, he was killed,” said the Turkish president at a political rally in Istanbul.
Erdogan said the Egyptian government was “too scared to even deliver Morsi to his family” for a funeral service in their hometown. He castigated Western governments for allowing the democratically elected Morsi to be overthrown.
Turkey’s pro-Erdogan Yeni Safak quoted Libyan Chairman of the High Council of State Khalid al-Mishri going even further than Erdogan to describe Morsi’s death as a political assassination. Although Yeni Safak did not deem it worthy of mention, al-Mishri is also a member of the Muslim Brotherhood.
“The assassination began with a coup against the legitimate administration, continued with him being confined to a solitary cell, and finally ended with his being deprived of his basic rights, including medical treatment,” al-Mishri said.
Al-Monitor reported on Tuesday that funeral ceremonies for Morsi were held in every province of Turkey by order of the government. At one of these ceremonies, the head of Turkey’s government religious directorate, the Diyanet, said Morsi imbibed the “sherbet of martyrdom.”
Demonstrators marched through Ankara carrying signs reading “The putschists will be defeated, the Islamic movement will prevail” and flashing Muslim Brotherhood hand signs.
Al-Monitor quoted analysts who suggested Erdogan remains furious that Morsi’s overthrow thwarted his dreams of presiding over an international Muslim Brotherhood alliance and Sunni caliphate:
“It was an extremely traumatic moment for Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party and marked the end of his ambitions to lead the Sunni Muslim world,” said Behlul Ozkan, an associate professor of international relations at Istanbul’s Marmara University. Coming on the heels of the mass anti-government Gezi protests in Turkey, Morsi’s downfall was seen as a portent of a broader Western conspiracy targeting Erdogan and like-minded Brotherhood-friendly leaders in the Muslim world. The failed July 2016 coup to overthrow Erdogan was viewed through the same lens.
This mindset was palpable at today’s prayers. Erdogan said, “You know there are Sisis lurking among us here, and they have been warning me: ‘Your end will be the same as Morsi’s.’” Some say Erdogan will cynically seek to leverage the outrage stirred by Morsi’s death to help his party’s faltering campaign in the run-up to the Istanbul mayoral redo vote on June 23. Opinion polls show the main opposition candidate, who narrowly won the March 31 vote in the country’s biggest city that was annulled under pressure from Erdogan, leading his Justice and Development Party (AKP) rival by several percentage points.
Mindful of the effect of Morsi’s death on disaffected AKP voters, the leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, lamented, “He lost his life in a courtroom. We wish God’s mercy on him. We would have wished Mohammed Morsi to be buried with a presidential ceremony.”
The Egyptian government insists Morsi received proper medical attention and has responded angrily to accusations of political murder. Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Hafez on Wednesday criticized the United Nations for attempting to “politicize a natural death” by calling for an outside inquiry and suggesting the conditions of his detention might have caused his health to deteriorate.