Middle East

What's become of Egypt's Mohammed Morsi?

Mohammed Morsi stands inside a glassed-in defendant's cage (16 June 2015) Image copyright EPA
Image caption Mohammed Morsi has rejected the authority of the courts to try him

Egypt's highest appeal court has overturned a life sentence handed down to ousted President Mohammed Morsi last year and ordered a retrial on the charge of conspiring to commit terrorist acts with foreign groups.

The ruling came days after the Court of Cassation quashed a death sentence relating to another case.

Morsi was overthrown by the military in July 2013 following mass protests a year after he took office as the country's first democratically elected leader.

How did he end up in court?

Morsi was elected president a year after an uprising brought an end to Hosni Mubarak's 30-year rule. During his 12 months in power, Morsi was seen by many Egyptians as preoccupied with establishing political control rather than tackling economic and social problems.

On the first anniversary of his taking office, opponents of Morsi organised demonstrations that saw millions take to the streets to demand his resignation. Three days later, then military chief - and now president - Abdul Fattah al-Sisi overthrew Morsi.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood has been portrayed as a struggle against "terrorism"

The authorities subsequently launched a crackdown on supporters of Morsi and the Islamist movement to which he belongs, the now-banned Muslim Brotherhood. So far, more than 1,400 people have been killed and tens of thousands detained.

Morsi and his top advisers were held incommunicado by the military for several months before prosecutors began filing charges against them. He has since been detained at a high-security prison near the Mediterranean city of Alexandria.


What has he been convicted of?

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Most of those killed in the clashes outside the Ittihadiya palace were Brotherhood supporters

DETENTION AND TORTURE OF PROTESTERS

Morsi was sentenced to 20 years of hard labour in April 2015 after being found guilty of ordering the unlawful detention and torture of opposition protesters during clashes with Muslim Brotherhood supporters outside the Ittihadiya presidential palace in Cairo in December 2012.

Morsi was, however, cleared of inciting Brotherhood supporters to murder two protesters and a journalist - a charge that could have carried the death penalty.

LEAKING STATE SECRETS

In June 2015, Morsi was sentenced to 25 years in prison after being convicted of "leading a group established against the law" - the Brotherhood - and a further 15 years for "facilitating the leaking of classified documents to Qatar".

Prosecutors alleged that Morsi's aides had been paid $1m (£800,000) to leak documents to Qatari intelligence and the Qatar-owned Al Jazeera TV network that included details on the location of, and weapons held by, the Egyptian armed forces and on Egypt's foreign and domestic policies.


What about the other trials?

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Hamas dismissed the claim it plotted with Morsi and the Brotherhood, calling it a "disgrace"

PRISON BREAKS

In May 2015, Morsi was sentenced to death after being convicted of colluding with foreign militants - from the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas and Lebanon's Shia Islamist Hezbollah movement - to organise a mass prison break during the 2011 uprising.

He was found guilty of the murder and kidnapping of guards, damaging and setting fire to prison buildings and looting the prison's weapons depot.

In November 2016, the Court of Cassation ordered a retrial.

CONSPIRING WITH FOREIGN ARMED GROUPS

Morsi was also given a life sentence - equivalent to 25 years - in May 2015 after being convicted of conspiring to commit terrorist acts with foreign organisations to undermine national security.

Prosecutors alleged that the Brotherhood had hatched a plan in 2005 to send "elements" to military camps run by Hamas in the Gaza Strip, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and the Revolutionary Guards force in Iran.

In November 2016, the Court of Cassation ordered a retrial.


What about the other trials?

Morsi faces separate trials on the following charges:

  • Fraud in connection with the Muslim Brotherhood's economic and social programme for Egypt's recovery, called Renaissance (al-Nahda)
  • Insulting the judiciary by naming a judge in a public speech and accusing him of overseeing fraud in previous elections

What does Morsi say?

Image copyright AP
Image caption Morsi was forced to sit in a soundproof glass dock after disrupting the start of his first trial

Morsi has rejected the authority of the courts.

At the start of his first trial, he shouted from the dock that he was the victim of a "military coup".

"I am the president of the republic, according to the constitution of the state, and I am forcibly detained," he asserted.

Since then, Morsi has been forced to sit in soundproof glass cages in courtrooms, which officials say are designed to prevent him disrupting proceedings.


Are these show trials?

Image caption Supporters of President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi have called for Morsi to be executed

The prosecution of Morsi is taking place amid a wider crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood, which President Sisi has vowed to wipe out.

Morsi's supporters have said the trials are politically motivated and attempts to give legal cover to a coup. They claim they are based on unreliable witnesses and scant evidence.

Human rights activists have said Morsi's right to prepare an adequate defence has also been undermined.

In 2014, the UN warned that Egypt had "a judicial system where international fair trial guarantees appear to be increasingly trampled upon" after more than 1,200 people were sentenced to death in two mass trials "rife with procedural irregularities".


Could Morsi be executed?

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Several Muslim Brotherhood leaders have been sentenced to death

The Court of Cassation's ruling on the prison breaks case means he currently does not face execution. He could be sentenced to death if he is convicted at retrial, but experts believe it would be unlikely to be ever carried out.

Since Morsi's overthrow, courts have handed down hundreds of death sentences in cases connected to political violence, most involving Brotherhood members.

In March 2015, the state executed a Morsi supporter convicted of a murder committed during a riot in Alexandria in mid-2013, despite what human rights activists called an unfair trial.

All death sentences have to be sent to the grand mufti, Egypt's highest religious authority, for his opinion on whether they should stand. But even when the grand mufti gives his approval, convictions are still open to appeal.


What's happened to Hosni Mubarak?

Mubarak was charged with conspiring in the killing of hundreds of protesters during the 2011 uprising. He was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison in 2012, but the Court of Cassation overturned the conviction and ordered a retrial in 2013. The charge was dropped in November 2014, but in June 2015 a judge accepted an appeal from prosecutors and ordered a retrial.

Mubarak was also sentenced to three years in prison in May 2015 after being convicted at retrial of embezzling millions of dollars earmarked for the renovation of presidential palaces.

The 88 year old is residing in a military hospital in Cairo.