Monday, October 19, 2009

Egypt Fatally Tortured Brother of Hamas Spokesman

Hamas claims member tortured to death in Egypt jail
October 13, 2009

GAZA CITY — Hamas charged on Tuesday that the brother of one of the Palestinian Islamist group's chief spokesmen was tortured to death in an Egyptian prison, a claim denied by Cairo.

"Yusef Abu Zuhri, 38, the brother of Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri, was martyred in an Egyptian prison as a result of torture," Fawzi Barhum, the other main spokesman for the group, told AFP.

Abu Zuhri was arrested in April in the Sinai town of El-Arish following what Egyptian security officials said was a tip-off from members of the secular Fatah party who had fled Gaza when Hamas seized power there in June 2007.

Sami Abu Zuhri said his brother died after weeks of "brutal torture in an Egyptian prison" that led to severe bleeding.

He added that his brother was briefly treated at Egypt's Alexandria University hospital but was returned to his cell before the bleeding had been stopped.

In Cairo, interior ministry spokesman General Hamdi Abdel Karim denied that torture was the cause of death.

Instead, Abu Zuhri "died a natural death from a drop in blood circulation," Abdel Karim said without elaborating on the causes.

An Egyptian security official said the man suffered from liver and heart diseases and was transferred to a prison hospital at the end of September.

An autopsy said he died of natural causes, said the official, who requested anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to media.

Former detainees and human rights groups have repeatedly accused Egypt's security services of torturing prisoners, and earlier this year the Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights said 13 citizens had been tortured to death between June 2008 and February 2009.

Egypt has been brokering Palestinian unity talks for several months and has been trying to get Hamas and their secular Fatah rivals to sign on to a reconciliation agreement later this month.

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