Egyptian born US citizen Mustafa Kassem, has died while on a hunger strike in an Egyptian prison on Monday, January 13.
The 54-year-old New York taxi driver was arrested during his home visit to Egypt in August 2013 on accusations of being a spy for the US government and for taking part in protests against Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.
Mr Kassem had always denied the charges against him.
He stopped eating solid food late last year and ceased drinking fluids four days ago.
The top US diplomat for the Middle East, David Schenker, described Mr Kassem’s death as “needless, tragic and avoidable”, but stopped short of outlining any repercussions for Egypt – a close US ally.
Mr Kassem was arrested in Cairo by security officials who accused him of being a spy and taking part in protests He was convicted and sentenced to 15 years in prison in 2018.
Mr Kassem – who was visiting family in Egypt at the time – denied accusations he was part of the protest, which left more than 800 people dead when security forces opened fire on demonstrators, according Human Rights Watch.
He accused Egyptian soldiers of snatching his American passport and stamping on it during his arrest.
Mr Kassem went on several hunger strikes during his detention.
Pretrial Rights International, which represented him, said he had died of a heart attack.
“Last Thursday, he ceased taking liquids and was shortly thereafter transferred to a local hospital, where he passed away today in the late afternoon (local time),” it said in a statement.
The Egyptian interior ministry said he was moved to the prison medical wing for treatment for his diabetes.
“His condition deteriorated… and he died on January 13,” it said in a statement.
Egypt’s top prosecutor has ordered a post-mortem examination to determine cause of death, the official Egyptian news agency MENA reports. (Source: BBC)