Protester Shaimaa Sabbagh's death by police shots blamed on her thin 'skin over bone' body

The woman was shot by pellets at close range by riot police

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A protester who was killed by police died from her wounds as she was too thin, a spokesman for Egypt’s medical examiner claims.

Socialist activist Shaimaa Sabbagh died on 24 January, one day before the four-year anniversary of the Arab Spring revolt in Cairo. She did not have enough body fat to survive her injuries according to officials, The New York Times reported.

Riot police attacked the group of 25 demonstrators with birdshot and tear gas. She was on her way to Tahrir Square to lay a wreath for more than 800 protesters who died during the Arab Spring.


Images of Ms Sabbagh, a mother of one in her early 30s, being carried away by a fellow activist – reported to be her husband – while dying from body and face wounds propelled President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to call for an investigation into the incident.

An unnamed officer was charged with battery leading to manslaughter on 17 March. The Interior Ministry had originally blamed the death on protesters allegedly setting off firecrackers. At least 17 other protesters died during that weekend.

Prosecutors said they were also charging activists with participating in an unauthorised protests under strict bans on street demos passed after the military takeover in 2013. Both crimes carry similar penalties of up to several years in prison.

The coffin of Shaimaa Sabbagh being carried during her funeral

Ms Sabbagh would not have died if her body had not been so slim, according to Hisham Abdel Hamid – who works for the Medical Forensics Authority – who made the comments during a television interview on Saturday.

He said, according to The New York Times: “Her body was like skin over bone, as they say.

“She was very thin. She did not have any percentage of fat. So the small pellets penetrated very easily, and four or five out of all the pellets that penetrated her body were able to penetrate her heart and lungs, and these are the ones that caused her death.”

A man who had been standing next to her was shot in the neck and had still survived, he added in defence of the theory.

“These sorts of ridiculous claims just add a thick layer of absurdity to the government’s endless record of killings and impunity,” said Sarah Leah Whitson of Human Rights Watch.