British MPs ask to visit Egypt's former president in jail

FILE - In this July 13, 2012 file photo, then Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi holds a news conference with Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki, at the Presidential palace in Cairo, Egypt. Three British Members of Parliament have requested that Egyptian authorities allow them to visit the country's imprisoned former president Morsi over concerns about his health. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo, File)

CAIRO — Senior British Members of Parliament said Tuesday they have asked Egyptian authorities to allow them to visit former President Mohammed Morsi, deposed and now in prison, over concerns that his health is deteriorating because of poor detention conditions.

The bipartisan group, headed by the Conservative Party's Crispin Blunt, made the request a day earlier in a letter to the Egyptian ambassador in London. They said they want to review the conditions of Morsi's detention in Egypt's Tora prison along with a lawyer. One of the parliamentarians is a doctor specializing in cases of mistreatment and torture.

In a copy of the letter, Blunt says he was asked to make the request on behalf of Morsi's family, who say they have seen him only twice in detention in four years. They say he is suffering from worsening diabetes, high blood pressure, loss of sight in one eye and other ailments, and is not receiving proper treatment.

The Egyptian Embassy in London did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Morsi's son Abdullah says that Egypt's upcoming election should be a reminder that its first democratically elected president, overthrown by the military in 2013, still languishes in prison "in appalling conditions in breach of international laws."

"His request for urgent medical treatment during a trial session was refused," Abdullah said in a statement. "Regardless of any person's opinion of my father or his beliefs, this is unacceptable for anyone. That is why we have asked this independent panel — with legal, medical and foreign policy experience — to assess the situation."

President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, who as defense minister led Morsi's overthrow, is up for re-election later this month in a vote in which he faces no serious challengers. A string of would-be competitors either withdrew under pressure or were arrested, and the only other candidate is a little-known politician who supports el-Sissi.

Morsi was elected in the wake of Egypt's 2011 uprising, but his divisive year in power ended with mass protests demanding his resignation. He has been in detention since July 3, 2013, and at one point was condemned to death, although that ruling has been overturned on appeal.

He has been sentenced to decades in prison in several cases, including one alleging he used unauthorized violence, arrest and torture to put down a protest outside the presidential palace, and another based on his leadership position in the now-banned Muslim Brotherhood group. Other cases are still pending, including one recently adjourned until April 9, which alleges he organized mass prison breaks during the tumult of 2011.

Britain's Blunt is a former chair of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, and would be joined by Edward Faulks, a fellow conservative and former justice minister, should Egyptian authorities allow them to visit. The doctor of the group would be Labour's Paul Williams, a member of the health select committee, while lawyer Tim Moloney would also join.

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Follow Brian Rohan on Twitter at : www.twitter.com/Brian_Rohan

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