Prominent Egyptian Islamist dies in Cairo prison

A prominent leader of a hardline Islamist group has died in Cairo jail

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A prominent leader of a hardline Islamist group that backed ousted Egyptian president Mohamed Mursi has died in jail in Cairo, the interior ministry said on Sunday.

It said Essam Derbala, a senior leader in Gamaa Islamiya, died on Saturday after returning from a hearing at his trial.

Gamaa Islamiya blamed the prison authorities for his death.

Police had arrested the 58-year-old in May on charges of inciting violence and joining a pro-Mursi opposition alliance.

A medical check-up showed Derbala had a fever, low blood pressure and diabetes, the ministry statement said, adding that he had a history of diabetes and also previously suffered strokes.

"While being taken to the hospital he started bleeding from the nose, and suffered low blood pressure and breathlessness that led to his death," it said.

Gamaa Islamiya issued its own statement accusing the prison authorities of "deliberately killing Derbala by depriving him of his medicine over the past few months".

"We hold the political and security apparatus responsible for his death," it said.

Derbala was also an opponent of ex-president Hosni Mubarak who was forced out in 2011.

He was jailed for 25 years during Mubarak's rule for his alleged involvement in violence in Upper Egypt when Mubarak's predecessor Anwar Sadat was assassinated in 1981.

Derbala was released from prison in 2006.

Gamaa Islamiya waged an armed insurgency in the 1990s and claimed responsibility for killing 58 tourists and four Egyptian guards at the famed temple city of Luxor in 1997.

It later renounced violence but became a strong supporter of Mursi during the Islamist leader's sole year in office.

Egypt's first freely elected president was ousted by then army chief and now President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in July 2013 after mass street protests.

A number of Islamists have died in prison in recent months, including professor of medicine Tareq al-Ghandour in November 2014 and ex-parliamentarian and senior Muslim Brotherhood member Farid Ismail in May.

A crackdown targeting Mursi's supporters has left hundreds of people dead, thousands jailed and hundreds more sentenced to death after speedy trials.