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One year since US-Egypt citizen Moustafa Kassem died in Egyptian prison

Egyptian-American Mustafa Kassem died in a prison in Egypt, 14 January 2020
Egyptian-American Mustafa Kassem died in a prison in Egypt, 14 January 2020

Today marks one year since Egyptian-American citizen Moustafa Kassem died in an Egyptian prison after embarking on a hunger strike over his unjust detention.

Kassem was 54 and working as a taxi driver in New York and was in Egypt visiting family. He was arrested around the time of the Rabaa massacre and accused of being a spy and taking part in protests.

Kassem was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment in a mass trial with over 700 defendants after serving five years without charge.

In 2019 he stopped eating solids to protest against his incarceration, then in early 2020 stopped drinking fluids which led to him suffering a heart attack.

He became the fifth person to die that month in prison. Kassem, who suffered from diabetes and a heart ailment, was left largely untreated throughout his incarceration.

In September last year, the Committee for Justice estimated that around 958 prisoners have died from medical neglect or torture since the 2013 coup.

READ: Egypt: Musician jailed with Mubarak's sons describes luxurious jail with sauna, gym

Kassem denied all charges against him and said he was changing money at a shopping mall near the square when he was asked to show his ID.

When the police saw his American passport, they threw it on the ground, stamped on it, then started beating him and then detained him.

At the time, the Assistant Secretary for State for Near Eastern Affairs, David Schenker, said his death was "needless, tragic and avoidable."

In December 2019 US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo raised Kassem's detention with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry at a meeting in Washington.

However, the tragedy failed to break the US-Egypt special relationship and US military aid to Egypt continued to be delivered at $1.3 billion a year.

Whilst he was alive, the American administration failed to use the vast sums of money to persuade Egypt to abide by the rule of law.

Kassem wrote to US President Donald Trump during his imprisonment and said: "I'm putting my life in your hands."

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