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American found hanged in Egyptian jail

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Sunday, Oct. 13, 2013, 9:32 p.m.
 

CAIRO — An American man who was arrested in North Sinai for violating curfew and detained for more than a month was found hanged in his jail cell, Egypt's interior ministry said on Sunday.

James Lunn was found “hanging on the bathroom door handle,” the ministry said.

A State Department official confirmed Lunn's death and said the agency is “providing appropriate consular assistance” to Lunn's family.

Lunn was described in Egyptian and other media as being 66 or in his 50s. Some reports referred to him as James Henry and described him as a retired army officer; Egyptian officials referred to him as James Henry Allen. Confusion about foreign names is common in Egypt, especially when they are transliterated from English to Arabic.

The State Department said Lunn was “not a (military) veteran.”

His U.S. address was not immediately known.

Lunn was arrested during an Aug. 27 security sweep of the volatile Sinai because a car was used to bomb a police station in Sheikh Zuwaid, near the Rafah border crossing with Gaza, the interior ministry said.

The ministry said Lunn possessed a “computer and maps of important installations.”

Egyptian media said Lunn was traveling to Gaza and called himself an “historical documentation enthusiast.”

He was transferred to a prison in the Suez Canal city of Ismailia.

“Embassy personnel had been in contact repeatedly with Egyptian authorities regarding his case” and in “regular touch” with Lunn, including several phone calls and a prison visit last week, the State Department official said.

Lunn never complained “that he had been subject to any mistreatment,” the official said.

On Saturday, an Egyptian prosecutor extended Lunn's detention for 30 days.

Lunn is the second foreigner to die in detention since a July 3 popular coup ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsy and led to a state of emergency and a curfew. In September, a French citizen who was arrested for violating the curfew was beaten to death in a Cairo jail by cellmates.

Betsy Hiel is Trib Total Media's foreign correspondent. Email her at bhiel@tribweb.com.

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