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Cairo angered at cremation of citizen, German authorities claim suicide in custody

German authorities confirmed that Egyptian national Mohamed al-Naggar, whose family alleged he had been tortured to death in a German prison, died from his injuries following an attempted suicide.

The head of Egypt’s consulate in Frankfurt met with German authorities yesterday to discuss the circumstances of Naggar’s death and the subsequent findings of the medical examiner’s report, which found no evidence of abuse or suspicious circumstances, according to Egypt’s Foreign Ministry.

Naggar died on June 22 at a hospital in the city of Essen, in the Western region of Germany, from brain damage after he tried to commit suicide by hanging on June 16 in his cell, where he was on suicide watch at the time. He was serving a sentence of one year and four months, following a conviction for possession of narcotics and theft.

Authorities say it was not his first suicide attempt, as he had previously been admitted to hospital after swallowing a spoon.

Naggar’s death first came to light when his father made headlines after appearing on television in late June saying that his son had died as a result of being tortured in prison and complained that German authorities had failed to notify him or the Egyptian Embassy of his son’s detention.

The death has caused tensions between Cairo and Berlin after German authorities cremated Naggar’s body, in contradiction with traditional Islamic burial practices, without notifying the Egyptian Embassy or Naggar’s family in Egypt.

German authorities have said Naggar requested that the Embassy not be notified of his detention, and apparently had also expressed his wish not to be buried in Egypt. They had made several attempts to contact his family and friends but to no avail, so in line with German law his body was cremated.

Following months of intense international criticism over Egyptian authorities’ handling of the death of Italian researcher Giulio Regeni, Egypt’s Foreign Ministry was quick to react to the German authorities’ handling of Naggar’s death and burial arrangements, calling upon them to ensure a transparent investigation, and chastising them for cremating Naggar’s body.

This is not the first case in which the government has politicized the death or disappearance of an Egyptian citizen abroad to argue that disappearances and torture are an issue in countries besides Egypt. The disappearance of Egyptian national Adel Moawad in Italy was widely cited in the local press, with several television hosts labeling him “Egypt’s Regeni.” Presdient Abdel Fattah al-Sisi also mentioned Moawad in an interview with an Italian newspaper last year, demanding that the Italian government look into his case.