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Egypt's forensics authority says death of Islamist figure in jail 'not due to violence'

Leading member of Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya died on his way to hospital on Saturday

Ahram Online , Monday 10 Aug 2015
Essam Derbala
Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya's Essam Derbala (Photo: Al-Ahram)

Egypt's forensic medical authority has said that the death of a leader of the hardline Islamist group Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya in prison on Saturday was not due to criminal violence.

The interior ministry had said Sunday that Essam Derbala, who had been detained since May on violence-related charges, suffered fatigue a day earlier and died while being transferred to hospital.

Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya had described his death as “murder”, saying that he had been denied medication in prison.

On Sunday the spokesman for the forensic medicine authority, Hisham Abdel-Hamid, said that forensic examination of the body showed no sign of "criminal violence or resistance."

In comments quoted by state news agency MENA, Abdel-Hamid said that Derbala's family refused to have an autopsy carried out on the body as there was no criminal aspect to his death.

Several political parties have called for investigations into Derbala's death, including the Building and Development Party, Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya's political wing.

The Strong Egypt Party, led by moderate Islamist Abdel-Moneim Abul-Fotouh, also called for investigations into Derbala's death and what it called all other  deaths resulting from "medical negligence or lack of healthcare" in Egyptian prisons.

Several Islamist political figures have died in detention in recent months.

In May, a leading member of the now-outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, Farid Ismail, died in the Cairo hospital where he had been transferred from Al-Aqrab prison. The group accused authorities of neglecting his poor health in the months leading up to his death.

Another Brotherhood leader, Mohamed El-Falahgy, died in a prison north of Cairo later in the same month.

Strong Egypt Party also called for the closure of the notorious Al-Aqrab prison, where Derbala had been held, saying it violates all legal and international standards for treatment of prisoners.

Derbala, 58, had spent over two decades in jail under former president Hosni Mubarak during the group's armed insurgency against the state in the 1990s.

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