Former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi looks on during a trial in Cairo, Egypt, on June 18, 2016. File Photo by Mohamed Hossam/EPA-EFE
June 18 (UPI) -- The United Nations human rights office called for an independent investigation Tuesday into the death of former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, a day after he died inside a Cairo courtroom.
Morsi died Monday after collapsing inside a cage in the courtroom during trial. The former leader of the Muslim Brotherhood and Egypt's first democratically elected president, 67, was being tried on espionage charges nearly six years after a military coup expelled him from power. He was buried Tuesday during a private funeral.
The Egyptian Prosecutor General's Office said Morsi died of a heart attack, but the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights is calling for an independent review.
OHCHR spokesman Rupert Colville cited concerns about Morsi's detention for several years, and said the investigation should examine whether those conditions factored in his death.
"As former President Mohamed Morsi was in the custody of the Egyptian authorities at the time of his death, the state is responsible for ensuring he was treated humanely and that his right to life and health were respected," Colville said in a statement. "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."
Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch, said the U.N. Human Rights Council should investigate "ongoing" human rights violations in Egypt.
"At the very least, the Egyptian government committed grave abuses [against him]," she said.
Morsi was at one time sentenced to death on murder charges, but that was overturned due to lack of evidence. At the time of his death, he still faced other charges that included inciting violence and orchestrating prison escapes.