Egypt accuses UN of seeking to 'politicise Morsi's natural death'

Cairo says UN's call for independent probe into Morsi's death is a 'deliberate attempt to politicise a natural death'.

    Egypt is accusing the United Nations of seeking to "politicise" the death in court of the country's first democratically elected president Mohamed Morsi by calling for an "independent inquiry".

    Foreign ministry spokesperson Ahmed Hafez said on Wednesday he condemned "in the strongest terms" the call by Rupert Colville, spokesperson for the UN high commissioner for human rights, for an independent investigation into Morsi's death on Monday.

    Hafez said it was a "deliberate attempt to politicise a case of natural death".

    Egypt's first official comments on Morsi's death came amid growing criticism about prison conditions in the Middle East nation.

    On Tuesday, Colville called for a probe into whether the conditions Morsi faced during his nearly six years in custody had contributed to his death.

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    "Any sudden death in custody must be followed by a prompt, impartial, thorough and transparent investigation carried out by an independent body to clarify the cause of death," he said.

    "Concerns have been raised regarding the conditions of Mr Morsi's detention, including access to adequate medical care, as well as sufficient access to his lawyers and family," Colville added.

    He said the investigation must "encompass all aspects of the authorities' treatment of Mr Morsi to examine whether the conditions of his detention had an impact on his death."

    Morsi was buried in a small family ceremony early on Tuesday a day after he suffered a fatal heart attack in a Cairo court, his sons said.

    Morsi was overthrown on July 3, 2013, after barely a year in power, in a coup staged by current President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. He was placed under house arrest before being moved to prison.

    'Entirely predictable'

    Rights groups Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have also called for a credible investigation into Morsi's death.

    "The government of Egypt today bears responsibility for his death, given their failure to provide him with adequate medical care or basic prisoner rights," HRW said in a statement to Al Jazeera.

    "He's been in prison and treated worse than the already terrible conditions for Egypt's prisoners," Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director of HRW's Middle East and North Africa division, told Al Jazeera, decrying Morsi's "terrible but entirely predictable" death.

    "The Egyptian government has known very clearly about his declining medical state. He had lost a great deal of weight, he had fainted in court a number of times and was being kept in almost around-the-clock solitary confinement."

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    A leading member of the Muslim Brotherhood group, Morsi won Egypt's first free presidential election in 2012, a year after an uprising that toppled longtime leader Hosni Mubarak.

    Turkey's ruling AK Party supported Morsi's government and the country hosted many Brotherhood members and supporters who fled to Turkey since the group's activities were banned in Egypt in 2013.

    "There are Arab dissidents ... in Turkey since the Arab Spring ... and people are here to give support for Morsi's cause," said Al Jazeera's Sinem Koseoglu, reporting from Istanbul's Fatih Mosque where thousands had come, including President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, to attend a prayer service for Morsi.

    At the time of his death, Morsi, 67, faced a host of legal charges, which he, along with many human rights groups and independent observers, said were politically motivated.

    Thousands of members of the now-outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, who were arrested in the crackdown following the 2013 coup, are still languishing in jails.

    Egypt's government has dismissed accusations that the former president was badly treated.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies