January 13, 2019 – Washington, D.C. — Today, Egyptian-American Mustafa Kassem passed away after more than six years of unjust detention and negligent medical care in Egypt. The immediate cause of death is believed to be heart failure, though an autopsy is being scheduled. At this time, the family asks for the space and time to grieve and to come to terms with their loss. On behalf of the family, Pretrial Rights International and The Freedom Initiative will speak more fully on the case in the near future.

Born on February 11, 1955, Mustafa Kassem later emigrated to the United States, naturalized, and settled in the greater New York area. Most recently, he was resident of Bethpage, NY.  He was an auto parts dealer and traveled to his native Cairo in the Summer of 2013 to visit family. On August 14, 2013, just a few days before his return to the United States, he went to exchange some money at a shopping center near Cairo’s Rabaa Square when Army officials stopped him and asked for identification. After showing his US passport, the soldiers beat and detained him, later transferring him to law enforcement officials who continued this harsh treatment. A diabetic with a heart condition, prison officials limited access to necessary medications and medical care for the entirety of his detention. He remained in pretrial detention for over five years.

On September 8, 2018, along with more than 700+ codefendants, he was convicted and sentenced to fifteen years in jail pursuant to an anti-protest law that violated all standards of due and fair process. No individualized evidence was ever presented against him. On that day, he began a liquid-only hunger strike. 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).

Mustafa is survived by his wife and two young children and a large and loving family.


Pretrial Rights International is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that supports detainees and their families in promoting human rights and basic civil liberties afforded to persons arrested and accused of crimes.

The Freedom Initiative is a nonpartisan human rights campaign and 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that aims to highlight the suffering of tens of thousands of prisoners of conscience in Egypt.

We have been representing Mustafa and his family on a pro bono basis.

For More Information, Contact:
The Freedom Initiative: (540) 277-7700 or msoltan@thefreedomi.org
Pretrial Rights International: (202) 549-8094 or info@pretrialrights.org