After an Egyptian government spokesman said a woman shot dead by police would have survived with more body fat, widespread criticism has led to the spokesman’s firing.
Hisham Abdel Hamid, who represented Egypt’s forensic authority, said in a television broadcast Saturday that 31-year-old protester Shaimaa al-Sabbagh, “according to science, should not have died,” and her death was therefore a fluke. (RELATED: Egypt Claims Protester Was Too Thin To Survive Police Gunfire)
Sabbagh was killed in January by police birdshot at a range of 8 yards, while carrying flowers to Cairo’s Tahrir Square on the fourth anniversary of the 2011 revolution. Multiple pellets pierced her back and entered her lungs and heart.
Since then, she has become the latest face of Egyptian police’s overreach in the interest of public safety. Egypt faces serious threats from extremists — including supporters of the Islamic State in the eastern Sinai Peninsula — and public nuisances from Muslim Brotherhood supporters of deposed president Mohamed Morsi.
Sabbagh, on the other hand, was a secular leftist who supported Morsi’s ouster. The shots were fired, along with tear gas, when a group of peaceful protesters including Sabbagh did not obtain a permit beforehand and refused to disperse.
Abdel Hamid told Agence France-Presse that he was fired, not for the incendiary comments, but “for giving an unauthorized interview.” He was also dismissed for remarks in the same interview, where he criticized colleagues for performing an autopsy on an activist.
In Saturday’s interview, he also compared Sabbagh to another peaceful protester who survived the suppressing fire, saying that “under his skin, he had layers of fat and I don’t know what else,” blocking the pellets.
The incidents’ survivors are being prosecuted for protesting without a permit, and are likely to face a similar prison sentence to the police officer responsible for Sabbagh’s death.
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