Last updated: 16 May, 2015

Erdogan attacks Morsi verdict as return to ‘ancient Egypt’

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday condemned the death sentence handed out by an Egyptian court to former president Mohamed Morsi, saying it recalled “ancient Egypt”.

“The popularly elected president of Egypt, chosen with 52 percent of the vote, has unfortunately been sentenced to death,” Erdogan said at a rally in Istanbul, to howls of protest from the crowd.

“Egypt is turning back into ancient Egypt,” Erdogan said, referring to the old Pharaonic rule of the land that ended over two millennia ago.

“The West, unfortunately, is still turning a blind eye to Sisi’s coup,” he added. Morsi was overthrown in 2013 by army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi who is now president after winning elections last year.

“While they (the West) abolished the death penalty in their own countries, they just look on as spectators at this execution in Egypt,” he added.

Turkey, like the EU, has itself abolished the death penalty.

The Islamic-rooted government under Erdogan was a strong supporter of the Islamist Morsi after he won the 2012 elections with just under 52 percent of the vote, hoping he would help restore Turkey’s Ottoman-era influence in the region.

However Turkey reacted furiously to the overthrow by Sisi of Morsi, a move supported by Saudi Arabia. Diplomatic relations were severely degraded.

Erdogan has repeatedly attacked Sisi in speeches since. However until the death sentence verdict, there had been tentative signs of a rapprochement as Turkey seeks to improve ties with Saudi Arabia.

An Egyptian court sentenced Morsi to death on Saturday for his role in a mass jailbreak during the 2011 uprising that ousted former president Hosni Mubarak.