Middle East

Profile: Egypt's Mohammed Morsi

Mohammed Morsi (27/06/13)
As president, Mr Morsi fell out with key institutions and sectors of society

Mohammed Morsi was Egypt's first civilian and Islamist president, but lasted only one year in power before being ousted by the military on 3 July 2013.

The military's move followed four days of mass anti-government protests and Mr Morsi's rejection of an ultimatum from the generals to resolve Egypt's worst political crisis since Hosni Mubarak was deposed in 2011.

After almost two months in detention at secret locations, state prosecutors announced on 1 September that Mr Morsi would stand trial for inciting murder and violence.

The charge relates to the deaths of at least seven people during clashes between opposition protesters and Muslim Brotherhood supporters outside the Ittihadiya presidential palace in Cairo in December 2012.

Mr Morsi went on trial alongside 14 senior Brotherhood figures, on 4 November 2013. The trial has been adjourned until January.

In mid-December he was also charged with a range of other offences, which included revealing state secrets to a foreign country, sponsoring terrorism and carrying out acts that undermined Egypt's stability and security.

Prosecutors reportedly alleged he had formed an alliance with the Palestinian militant group Hamas and Lebanon's Hezbollah.

He will also go on trial on 23 December on separate fraud charges connected with the Brotherhood's economic and social programme for Egypt's recovery, called Renaissance (al-Nahda).


Mohammed Morsi was born in the village of El-Adwah in the Nile Delta province of Sharqiya in 1951.

Anti-Morsi protester (17/05/13)
Egypt became deeply polarised during Mr Morsi's rule

He studied Engineering at Cairo University in the 1970s before moving to the United States to complete a PhD.

After returning to Egypt he became head of the engineering department at Zagazig University.

He rose through the ranks of the Muslim Brotherhood, joining its Guidance Bureau and serving as an independent in the movement's parliamentary bloc from 2000 to 2005.

He then lost his seat in his home constituency, after a run-off vote that he claimed was rigged.

As an MP, he was occasionally praised for his oratorical performances, for example after a rail disaster in 2002 when he denounced official incompetence.

Mr Morsi was chosen as the Muslim Brotherhood's presidential candidate in April 2012 after the movement's deputy general guide, millionaire businessman Khairat al-Shater, was forced to pull out.

Although Mr Morsi was seen as less charismatic, he was chairman of its Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) and considered a safe pair of hands.

In his election campaign, Mr Morsi presented himself as a bulwark against any revival of the old guard of ousted president Hosni Mubarak.

Fresh protests

When he came to power in June 2012 after a narrow election, Mr Morsi promised to head a government "for all Egyptians", but critics complained he failed to deliver during his turbulent year in office.

They accused him of allowing Islamists to monopolise the political scene, concentrating power in the hands of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Moreover they said he mishandled the economy and failed to deal with the very issues that led to the uprising that brought him to power: calls for rights and social justice.

Public opposition to Mr Morsi began building in November 2012 when, wishing to ensure that the Islamist-dominated constituent assembly could finish drafting a new constitution, the president issued a decree granting himself far-reaching powers.

Anti-government protesters gathered in Tahrir Square on 1 July 2013
Huge crowds gathered in Tahrir Square in July to demand Mr Morsi resign

He agreed to limit the scope of the decree after days of opposition protests. But there was further outrage at the end of that month, when the constituent assembly approved a rushed version of the constitution - despite a boycott by liberals, secularists and the Coptic Church.

Amid increasing unrest, President Morsi issued a decree authorising the armed forces to protect national institutions and polling places until a referendum on the draft constitution was held on 15 December 2012. Critics said that decree amounted to a form of martial law.

The army returned to barracks after the charter was approved, but within weeks it was deployed in cities along the Suez Canal to halt clashes between opponents and supporters of Mr Morsi that left more than 50 people dead.

On 29 January 2013 the armed forces chief, General Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, warned that the political crisis might "lead to a collapse of the state".

In late April, opposition activists set up the grassroots Tamarod (Revolt) protest movement, collecting signatures for a petition complaining about Mr Morsi's failure to restore security and fix the economy, and calling for fresh presidential elections.

Tamarod organised mass protests to mark the first anniversary of the day he took office. On 30 June 2013, millions of protesters took to the streets across Egypt.

In a speech on the eve of his election anniversary, Mr Morsi struck a conciliatory tone, conceding he had "made many mistakes" and that they would "need to be corrected".

Brotherhood supporters protest in Cairo (29 Nov 2013)
Mr Morsi's arrested sparked deadly violence in Egypt

The protests prompted the military to warn him on 1 July that it would intervene and impose its own "roadmap" if he did not satisfy the public's demands within 48 hours.

As the deadline approached, Mr Morsi insisted he was Egypt's legitimate leader, and that any effort to remove him by force could plunge the country into chaos

"Legitimacy is the only way to protect our country and prevent bloodshed, to move to a new phase," he said.

On the evening of 3 July, the army suspended the constitution and announced the formation of a technocratic interim government ahead of new presidential elections.

Mr Morsi denounced the announcement as a "coup". He was taken by the army to an undisclosed location, and was not heard from for weeks.

Mass protests were staged by his supporters on the streets of Cairo, demanding his release and immediate return to power. The army responded by storming protests camps on 14 August and arresting key Brotherhood figures. Almost 1,000 people died in the crackdown.

In November 2013, Mr Morsi went on trial charged with inciting murder and violence. His trial was adjourned until January 2014, then in December, new charges of revealing state secrets to a foreign country, sponsoring terrorism, and carrying out military training were added. The new charges carry the death penalty.

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