Essam Derbala, Al-Jamaa Al-Islamiyaleader and a Building and Development Party figure, died in prison on Saturday following deteriorating health conditions and amid accusations of denied proper health care.
The Ministry of Interior announced Derbala’s death on Sunday. It said that the deceased felt tired after a hearing session on Saturday and was referred to hospital where he suffered nose bleeds followed by circulatory collapse that led to his death.
Chair of the renowned Islamist group’s shura council was being held in pre-trial detention in Tora prison since March for charges of forming an illegal organisation and supporting the pro-Muslim Brotherhood ‘Anti-Coup Alliance’.
Police arrested Derbala on 11 March with a warrant issued by State Security authorities. He was allegedly on his way to escape to Sudan.
Meanwhile, Khaled Al-Sherif, spokesman of the Building and Development Party, which is the political arm of Al-Gamaa, told Daily New Egypt that Derbala was in Qena giving a lecture within a missionary tour, under the slogan of ‘No to Takfir [Excommunication]’, when he was arrested, denying that the leader was attempting to flee Egypt.
State-run media said that Derbala was also facing terrorism charges for a series of events at Rabaa Al-Adaweya Square and operations against the army in Al-Arish in North Sinai, a claim that was also denied by Al-Sherif.
Al-Sherif told Daily News Egypt that Derbala suffered from diabetes and high blood pressure and claimed he was denied medical care.
The party said in a statement that those responsible for “assassinating Dr. Essam Derbala through medical neglect” should be legally prosecuted.
The interior ministry acknowledged in its statement the medical history of Derbala saying that the general prosecution was informed of the case to begin investigations.
“He was denied his prescribed medications since his arrest,” Al-Sherif said, adding that, on the day he died, Derbala’s detention was renewed for 15 days.
Al-Jamaa Al-Islamiya was founded in the 1970s, mainly by university students, and was linked to several militant attacks in the 1990s, most notably the attempt to assassinate former president Hosni Mubarak and the infamous Luxor massacre that resulted in the murder of over 60 foreign tourists and Egyptians.
In 2003, the group renounced violence and hundreds of its members were released from prison after decades of security crackdown.
Derbala was sentenced to life in prison for involvement in assassinating former president Anwar Sadat in 1981, before being a key player in renouncing violence in the 2000s. He authored a book that revised the group’s ideological beliefs entitled ‘Islam and the Regulation of War’.