An American citizen who has been imprisoned in Egypt since 2013 has died in detention following a hunger strike, his lawyers announced on Monday. Mustafa Kassem, 54, reportedly died of a heart attack, according to Pretrial Rights International, which represents him. “Last Thursday, he ceased taking liquids and was shortly thereafter transferred to a local hospital, where he passed away today in the late afternoon (local time),” the organization said in a statement. A source close to the family told ABC News that authorities “did not provide any reasons for his death.” Kassem, a New York City taxi driver, was arrested in August 2013 in Cairo by security officials who accused him of being a spy and taking part in protests against the government of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, according to one of his lawyers, Praveen Madhiraju. He was convicted and sentenced to 15 years in prison.
Kassem—who was visiting family in Egypt at the time—said that he was never part of the pro-democracy protest, which left more than 800 people dead when the military opened fire on demonstrators, according Human Rights Watch. His sister, Eman Kassem, said in February 2019 that he was dying from his hunger strike, which he allegedly began in 2018. In a letter to President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, Kassem pleaded with them to help free him: “I pray that you secure my freedom,” he wrote.