Egypt: Detained U.S. citizen found dead in cell

October 13, 2013

The Egyptian government said a U.S. citizen it detained in the Sinai Peninsula last month for violating curfew was found dead Sunday in jail, the second foreigner to die in detention in recent weeks.

The U.S. Embassy in Cairo confirmed that an American citizen held prisoner in the Suez Canal city of Ismailia died of an apparent suicide and that it was in contact with Egyptian authorities.

In Washington, the State Department identified the American as James Lunn and said U.S. consular officials in Cairo were informed of his arrest on Aug. 28, a day after the Egyptians detained him.

Consular officials had been in touch with Egyptian authorities and Lunn since, it said.

A statement by the Egyptian Interior Ministry said Lunn was detained Aug. 27 during “combing operations” that followed a car bombing outside a police station in the turbulent northern Sinai. It said a computer and maps of “important installations” were found in his possession. It did not identify the facilities.

Lunn, the ministry said, was held by police and on Saturday had his detention extended for 30 days. He was found hanged Sunday at the door of the bathroom of his cell block in an Ismailia police station.

Lunn was visited by a U.S. consulate official Tuesday, the ministry said.

A coroner has been appointed to determine the cause of death, the ministry’s statement said.

Security officials had said Lunn was a retired U.S. Army officer, a claim the State Department denied. Lunn arrived in Cairo from the Persian Gulf kingdom of Bahrain on Aug. 25, Egyptian officials said. They had said he was detained by troops in the Sinai while making his way to the Rafah border crossing to the Gaza Strip.

Lunn is the second foreigner to die in Egyptian custody since last month, when authorities said cell mates beat a French man to death.

Lunn’s death is likely to revive concerns about poor conditions and human rights violations in Egyptian jails.

However, the State Department said Lunn had at no time complained to U.S. consular officials that he was maltreated by the Egyptians. It confirmed the Egyptians’ claim that Lunn was last visited by a U.S. consular officer Tuesday.

— Associated Press

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