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Egypt investigating death of US citizen Moustafa Kassem following heart failure in custody Open in fullscreen

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Egypt investigating death of US citizen Moustafa Kassem following heart failure in custody

Egypt is investigating Moustafa Kassem's death [Getty]

Date of publication: 15 January, 2020

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Egypt is looking into the death of Moustafa Kassem amid international concern about Cairo's record on human rights.
Egypt has said it intends to investigate the death of US citizen Moustafa Kassem, who died in custody following a hunger strike against his six-year detention.

Egyptian-born Kassem died late Monday of heart failure after a liquid-only hunger strike he began last year, his lawyers said.

Egypt’s chief prosecutor ordered an autopsy and said officials are questioning all doctors who oversaw Kassem’s care in prison and at the Cairo University hospital where he died, Reuters reported.

Kassem, who was an auto-parts dealer and taxi driver from Long Island, New York, suffered from diabetes and was in Cairo visiting family in August 2013 when his lawyers say he was mistakenly swept up in a crackdown during the dispersal of a Muslim Brotherhood sit-in.

Kassem denied he had joined the protests, saying that he had gone out to exchange money and had shown his US passport to police.

He was nonetheless sentenced in 2018 in a mass trial with hundreds of defendants to 15 years in prison on charges of trying to overthrow the government, according to his lawyers.

"No individualized evidence was ever presented against him," Pretrial Rights International and The Freedom Initiative, which represented him, said in a statement.
Washington critised Egypt for the death.

“His death in custody was needless, tragic and avoidable,” said David Schenker, the top US diplomat for the Middle East, offering his “sincere condolences” to Kassem’s family.

“I will continue to raise our serious concerns about human rights and Americans detained in Egypt at every opportunity, as will the entire team at the department of state,” he said.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had raised Kassem's case last month in a meeting in Washington with Egypt's foreign minister, and Vice President Mike Pence said he raised his case directly with Sisi on a 2018 visit to Cairo.

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