Cairo, Jun 18 (AP/UNB) — Egypt's first democratically elected president, Islamist leader Mohammed Morsi who was ousted by the military in 2013 after a year in office, collapsed in court while on trial Monday and died, state TV and his family said.
The 67-year-old Morsi had just addressed the court, speaking from the glass cage he is kept in during sessions and warning that he had "many secrets" he could reveal, a judicial official said. A few minutes afterward, he collapsed in the cage, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the press.
In his final comments, he continued to insist he was Egypt's legitimate president, demanding a special tribunal, one of his defense lawyers, Kamel Madour told the Associated Press. State TV said Morsi died before he could be taken to the hospital.
Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood accused the government of "assassinating" him through years of poor prison conditions. In a statement, the group demanded an international investigation into Morsi's death and called on Egyptians to protest outside Egypt's embassy across the world.
Morsi, who was known to have diabetes, had been imprisoned since his 2013 ouster, often in solitary confinement and barred from visitors — his family was allowed to visit only three times during that time.
Egypt's chief prosecutor said Morsi's body would be examined to determine the cause of his death. State TV, citing an unnamed medical source, said he died after suffering a heart attack.
It was a dramatic end for a figure who was central in the twists and turns taken by Egypt since its "revolution" — from the pro-democracy uprising that in 2011 ousted the country's longtime authoritarian leader, Hosni Mubarak, through controversial Islamist rule and now back to a tight grip under the domination of military men.
The Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's most powerful Islamist group, won the elections held after Mubarak's fall, considered the first free votes the country had seen. First, they gained a majority in parliament, then Morsi squeaked to victory in presidential elections held in 2012, becoming the first civilian to hold the office.
Critics accused the Brotherhood of using violence against opponents and seeking to monopolize power and Islamize the state. Massive protests grew against their rule, until the military — led by then-Defense Minister, Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi — ousted Morsi in July 2013, dissolved parliament and eventually banned the Brotherhood as a "terrorist group."
El-Sissi was elected president and re-elected in 2018 in votes human rights groups sharply criticized as undemocratic. He has waged a ferocious crackdown that crushed the Brotherhood but also almost all other dissent, arresting tens of thousands, banning protests and silencing most criticism in the media.
Since his ouster, Morsi and other Brotherhood leaders have been put on multiple and lengthy trials. Morsi was sentenced to 20 years in prison on charges of ordering Brotherhood members to break up a protest against him, resulting in deaths. Multiple cases are still pending. Monday's session was part of a retrial, held next to Cairo's Tora Prison, on charges of espionage with the Palestinian Hamas militant group.
Morsi was held in a special wing in Tora nicknamed Scorpion Prison. Rights groups say its conditions fall far below Egyptian and international standards.
In contrast, Mubarak was allowed to stay in a military hospital during trials on various charges related to killing the protesters in 2011 uprising — of which he was eventually cleared.
Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director with the Human Rights Watch, said in a tweet that Morsi's death was "terrible but entirely predictable" given the government "failure to allow him adequate medical care, much less family visits."
Mohammed Sudan, leading member of the Muslim Brotherhood in London, said Morsi was banned from receiving medicine or visits and there was little information about his health condition.
"This is premeditated murder. This is slow death," he said.
Freedom and Justice, the Brotherhood's political arm, said in a statement on its Facebook page that prison conditions led to Morsi's death in what amounted to "assassination."
The judicial official said Morsi had asked to speak to the court during Monday's session. The judge permitted it, and Morsi gave a speech saying he had "many secrets" that, if he told them, he would be released, but he added that he wasn't telling them because it would harm Egypt's national security.
Madour, the defense lawyer, said Morsi spoke for around five minutes, "very calm and organized," before collapsing inside the cage.
A spokesman for the Interior Ministry did not answer calls seeking comment.
Morsi, an engineer who studied at the University of Southern California, was an unlikely figure to be thrust into Egypt's central stage. He was never considered a major thinker in the Brotherhood and instead rose through its ranks as an efficient, if lackluster, loyalist. The group only put him forward as its presidential candidate in 2012 after a more prominent and powerful figure, Khairat al-Shater, was declared ineligible to run.
The election victories were the crowning point for the Brotherhood, which had been banned under Mubarak but even underground had been the most organized opposition force. Initially, Morsi made gestures toward the secular pro-democracy activists who led the 2011 Arab Spring uprising. But over the course of the year, opponents accused his Brotherhood of hijacking the revolution and trying to entrench Islamist rule.
Major protests erupted, particularly over the process of writing a new constitution in which critics said the Brotherhood was allowing Islamists to write a charter largely on their terms. Brotherhood supporters cracked down violently on some protests.
As protests grew, the military stepped in. Critics called the move a coup, but el-Sissi's supporters call it a popularly backed move.
The subsequent crackdown has all but completely dismantled the Brotherhood, with hundreds killed and thousands imprisoned, with most other active figures fleeing abroad. At the same time, secular pro-democracy activists were also crushed.
Throughout his trials, Morsi insisted he remained Egypt's legitimate president. In early court sessions he gave angry speeches until judges ordered him kept in a glass cage during sessions where they could turn off his audio.
In audio leaked from a 2017 session of one of his trials, Morsi complained that he was "completely isolated" from the court, unable to see or hear his defense team, his eyes pained by lighting inside the cage.
"I don't know where I am," he is heard saying in the audio. "It's steel behind steel and glass behind glass. The reflection of my image makes me dizzy."
Dhaka, June 17 (UNB) - Egypt's former president Mohammed Morsi, who was ousted by the army in 2013, has died after fainting in a courtroom, state TV says.
Morsi, a former top figure in the now-banned Islamist movement Muslim Brotherhood, was at a session over accusations of espionage. He was 67, reports BBC.
He was overthrown following mass protests a year after he took office as the country's first democratically elected leader.
He had remained in custody since then.
Bamako, Jun 10 (AP/UNB) — Unknown assailants killed at least 95 people in a central Mali village overnight, government officials said Monday, the latest massacre in a growing ethnic conflict driven by fear and suspicion over alleged ties to extremist groups once limited to the West African country's north.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack on the ethnic Dogon village, though tensions have been high since an ethnic Dogon militia was accused of carrying out a massacre in an ethnic Peuhl village in March that left at least 157 dead.
The killings highlight the Malian security forces' inability to contain the spreading extremism by fighters linked to the Islamic State organization and al-Qaida and the growing danger of frightened communities arming themselves.
Nineteen people were missing after the Dogon village of Sobame Da was attacked around 3 a.m. on Monday, said Interior Security ministry spokesman Amadou Sangho. Homes were burned and animals slaughtered, the government said. The village is in the commune of Sangha, the heart of the Dogon militia blamed for the March attack that has been the deadliest so far.
Some Peuhl leaders had vowed to carry out reprisal attacks for the March bloodshed that was blamed on the Dogon militia known as Dan Na Ambassagou. Militia leader Youssouf Toloba has denied his fighters were involved.
On Monday a prominent group representing the Peuhl community, Tabital Pulaaku, issued a statement blaming the "cycle of violence" on the absence of state authority and impunity for perpetrators of attacks.
"The insecurity and the large-scale massacres exploited by terrorist groups are the seeds of a total and lasting destabilization of the region," the statement said.
Mali has long battled Islamic extremism in its far north, with a French-led military intervention dispersing jihadists from the region's major towns. The extremists have infiltrated communities much further south in recent years, stoking animosity between ethnic groups in the more populated region.
The Peuhl are accused of working alongside jihadists from the Islamic State of Greater Sahara organization to attack Dogon villages and prevent residents from cultivating their land.
In turn, the Peuhl have alleged that the Dogons are collaborating with Mali's military though there is no conclusive sign of state support.
But the groups have not been evenly matched. Human Rights Watch says the Dan Na Ambassagou militia has been behind violence that resulted in much higher death tolls. This is due in part to the sophistication of their weapons.
The latest act of "unspeakable barbarism," however, is a reminder that in this conflict there is no good side and bad side, the head of the United Nations peacekeeping mission, Mahamat Saleh Annadif, said in a statement: "Everyone is responsible."
The violence in central Mali is characterized by "killings, enforced disappearances and burning of villages on an appalling scale," Amnesty International said Monday. The U.N. Security Council's meeting this month on Mali to discuss the renewal of what has become the world's deadliest active U.N. peacekeeping mission should focus on the protection of civilians, the rights group added.
Mali's president has vowed to extinguish the Dan Na Ambassagou militia, though the massacre in March in Ogossagou has led some once-demobilized fighters to take up arms again.
Rural bands of hunters have "become paramilitary groups equipped with weapons of war," arguing that they need to defend their communities if Malian security forces can't, Jean-Herve Jezequel with the International Crisis Group wrote after the March massacre.
The tensions go back several years, however, over issues such as land use, he added. "The availability of weapons of war and the pretext of fighting jihadist groups have opened the floodgates to a level of ethnic-based violence that is without precedent in the region."
The victims have included women and young children, and observers say hundreds of civilians were killed last year alone.
In a report late last month, the U.N. secretary-general said that Mali's government must address the arming of ethnic self-defense groups and the proliferation of arms in central Mali or "there is a high risk of further escalation."
The unrest in central Mali has displaced some 60,000 people, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres wrote, adding that he was "appalled" by the surge in violence and its effect on civilians.
United Nations, Jun 8 (AP/UNB) — Estonia and the Caribbean island nation of St. Vincent and the Grenadines were elected to the U.N. Security Council on Friday, marking the first time the countries will hold seats on the U.N.'s most powerful body.
Niger, Tunisia and Vietnam also won two-year terms, and the five countries will take their new spots next year on the 15-member council.
"An historic occasion," St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves said after his country became one of the smallest ever elected to the council. Vincentians hope to work on addressing "the security consequences of adverse climate change," among other concerns, Gonsalves said.
The council has five permanent members with veto power: China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States.
Other members are elected by the assembly's 193 states for staggered, two-year terms. Five are chosen each year.
Equatorial Guinea, Ivory Coast, Kuwait, Peru and Poland are finishing their terms this year. Belgium, the Dominican Republic, Germany, Indonesia and South Africa will remain on the council through the end of 2020.
The coveted seats are allocated by global regions. Countries often plan for years to campaign for a spot, which can raise a nation's profile in international affairs and afford it a strong voice on the world's most pressing peace and security issues.
The council also provides a platform for bringing up international topics of particular concern to those who hold seats at the horseshoe-shaped table.
"It was an effort of 14 years to arrive here, and we are extremely grateful," Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid said after her country vied with Romania through two rounds of voting for an Eastern European seat. A 2/3 majority is necessary to win.
Estonia's priorities include cybersecurity, promoting principles of international law and making the council more transparent and efficient, Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu said.
Tunisia has served on the council three times, most recently in 2000-2001. Niger had a term in the 1980s, and Vietnam in 2008-2009.
Singapore, Jun 1 (AP/UNB) — Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that countries including the United States need to be willing to change international rules in response to a stronger China.
Speaking at an annual security conference in Singapore, Lee said Friday that China must in turn play a greater role in supporting trade frameworks and upholding peace and stability in the region and beyond.
"Countries have to accept that China will continue to grow and strengthen, and that it is neither possible nor wise for them to prevent this from happening," he said.
"China will have its own legitimate interests and ambitions, including to develop indigenously advanced technologies like infocomms and artificial intelligence. New international rules need to be made in many areas, including trade and intellectual property, cybersecurity and social media."
Lee was the keynote speaker at the Shangri-La Dialogue, attended by U.S. Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan, Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe and other defense officials and academics.
He noted that the U.S. "has the most difficult adjustment to make" as the "pre-eminent power."
Earlier this month, the U.S. and China concluded their 11th round of trade talks with no agreement and raised import taxes on each other's goods. The Commerce Department has also placed Chinese tech giant Huawei on its "Entity List," effectively barring U.S. companies from selling it technology without government approval.
Lee expects China to want a say in any new rules, because it did not participate in the creation of current ones. "And this is an entirely reasonable expectation," he said.
In return, China should take on more responsibilities and not expect to be treated in the same way as it was in the past, he said. This extends to trade arrangements and concessions that the country negotiated when it joined the World Trade Organization in 2001.
At that time, China's merchandise trade accounted for 4% of the world's total. Lee said its share has since almost tripled to 11.8%, making the terms "no longer politically wearable for other countries."
"It is in China's own interest to prevent the international framework of trade from breaking down, and to implement timely changes that bring about greater reciprocity and parity with its trading partners," he added.
He also urged China to use its strength "with restraint and legitimacy" and settle disputes peacefully in areas like the South China Sea.
"It should do so through diplomacy and compromise rather than force or the threat of force, while giving weight to the core interests and rights of other countries," Lee said.
"Then over time it will build its reputation as a responsible and benevolent power that need not be feared."
China is pitted against smaller neighbors in multiple disputes over islands, coral reefs and lagoons in the crucial waters. On Thursday, its defense ministry dismissed a report that Australian navy pilots were hit by lasers earlier in May while exercising in South China Sea waters claimed by China.
Lee said the hardening of attitudes in both the U.S. and China was worrying.
"The fundamental problem between the U.S. and China is a mutual lack of strategic trust. This bodes ill for any compromise or peaceful accommodation. But to go down the present path would be a serious mistake on both sides. There is no strategic inevitability about a U.S.-China faceoff," he added.
Shanahan and Wei met on the sidelines of the conference Friday and agreed to improve communication and deepen exchanges and cooperation between their militaries.