Egypt: American detainee found dead in his jail cell
The U.S. Embassy in Cairo confirmed that an American citizen held prisoner in the Suez Canal city of Ismailia died from an apparent suicide and that it was in contact with Egyptian authorities. It had no further comment.
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, which is in charge of police, said Lunn was detained Aug. 27 during "combing operations" that followed a car bombing outside a police station in the turbulent northern region of Sinai. It said a computer and maps of "important installations" were found in his possession. It did not identify the facilities.
Security officials earlier said he was a retired U.S. Army officer, a claim denied by the State Department. Lunn arrived in Cairo from Bahrain on Aug. 25, Egyptian officials said. They had said he was detained by army troops in Sinai three days later while making his way to the border crossing with Gaza in the town of Rafah.
He was flown to Ismailia on a military aircraft and handed over to the police there, the officials said. Jailers found him dead after he used his belt and shoe laces to hang himself, the officials said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to journalists.
The Interior Ministry and the security officials earlier mistakenly identified the American as James Henry Allen and James Henry. Such confusion is common in Egypt in the case of foreign names that are transliterated from English, often with some liberty.
The American is the second foreigner to die in Egyptian custody since last month. Then, authorities said cell mates beat a French man to death after his arrest for violating curfew. The latest death is likely to revive the furor about poor conditions and human-rights violations in Egyptian jails. Two Canadian citizens jailed for weeks before their release last week complained of torture and inhuman conditions. However, the State Department said Lunn had at no time complained to U.S. consular officials that he had been maltreated by the Egyptians.