Egypt's prosecutor-general said on Tuesday that young Egyptian filmmaker Shady Habash died in prison due to alcohol poisoning after he drank a sanitising solution he thought was water.
Habash, 24, died on Friday in Cairo’s Tora prison complex, after over two years in pre-trial detention over charges including “spreading false news” and “joining a banned organisation.” He was arrested in March 2018 after directing a music video satirical of President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi.
Habash informed the prison physician “he accidentally drank alcohol in the afternoon on the day before his death, claiming… he thought it was water as he complained of stomach cramps,” the persecutor-general’s office said in a statement.
“The physician gave him antiseptic and antispasmodic drugs and sent him back to his cell because his condition was stable,” the statement added.
Prison doctors examined Habash several times throughout the day and gave him the necessary drugs. When his health deteriorated at night, a physician decided to transfer him to a hospital outside the prison, the statement said.
As an ambulance was being prepared, Habash did not respond to the doctor’s attempts to revive him and died before he was sent to hospital.
The prosecutors questioned three inmates. One of them said the deceased told him he had drunk “by mistake” alcohol used by a detainee as a protective measure against the coronavirus, and that his cell mates then found two 100-millilitre bottles of hand sanitiser of the same type used by the deceased in a trash bin.
Two other cell-mates were questioned, with one giving a similar account and the other claiming Habash told him he mixed liquid sanitiser with a soft drink to get the same effect of hard drinks.
The prosecutor’s statement said there were no apparent injuries to the body of the deceased.
The prosecutor-general ordered an autopsy to identify the “direct cause” of death and whether there were any injuries, drugs or alcoholic substances in his body, and to determine if medical procedures taken with him in detention were correct.
Habash’s family released a statement on social media on Tuesday rejecting any political use of the young man’s death and demanding an explanation for his death.