Egypt’s former President Mohammed Morsi, who was ousted by the military in 2013, has died after fainting in a courtroom, officials say.
A top figure in the now-banned Islamist movement Muslim Brotherhood, Morsi collapsed in a cage after speaking at a hearing on charges of espionage.
Morsi, who was 67, had been in custody since being ousted following mass protests a year after he took office.
Officials then launched a crackdown on his and Muslim Brotherhood supporters.
Morsi’s hearing in the capital, Cairo, was related to charges of espionage emanating from suspected contacts with the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas.
He collapsed moments after addressing the court from a cage some defendants are kept in during sessions, Egypt’s public prosecutor said, adding that a medical report showed no apparent recent injuries on Morsi’s body.
For a long time, there have been concerns over the former leader’s prison conditions. Last October his youngest son, Abdullah, told AP news agency that his father was being held under constant solitary confinement and denied treatment for serious conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes.
Five months earlier, Abdullah said in a Washington Post op-ed that the Egyptian authorities were “doing this on purpose, since they want to see him dead ‘from natural causes’ as soon as possible”
The death of a leader, remembered by many as Egypt’s first democratically elected president, is certain to inflame passions among his supporters and allies in Egypt and beyond. Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been quick to describe him as a martyr. Others are certain to do the same.
There has long been concern about the politicised trials which have kept him in prison, as well as his conditions of confinement. Morsi had a history of ill-health.
But last year, a British parliamentary panel reported he was being kept in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day, which they concluded could be classified as torture. They warned this could lead to premature death.
His sudden collapse comes at a time when the United States, reportedly at the request of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, is working to designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a foreign terrorist organisation. The death of one its most senior figures will deepen the anger and anxiety in this global Islamist movement.