Pompeo expresses 'outrage' to Egypt's leader over imprisoned American's death

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (L) meets Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi on the sidelines of an international conference on Libya in Berlin (AFP Photo/Odd ANDERSEN) (AFP)

Berlin (AFP) - Secretary of State Mike Pompeo expressed US "outrage" in a meeting Sunday with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi over the death of an American national imprisoned in Egypt since 2013.

Mustafa Kassem, a 54-year-old Egyptian-American who suffered from diabetes and heart problems, died January 13 after a hunger strike in which he ceased drinking fluids for four days before his death.

Pompeo, who met with the Egyptian president in Berlin on the sidelines of an international conference on Libya, "expressed outrage over the pointless and tragic death of detained US citizen Mustafa Kassem in Egypt," State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement.

Pompeo had raised Kassem's case with the Egyptian authorities before his death in custody, and the top US diplomat for the Middle East, David Schenker, has denounced it as "needless, tragic and avoidable."

Kassem, who had emigrated to the United States and was a naturalized US citizen, was arrested in the summer of 2013 while in Cairo on a home visit.

He had gone out to change money when soldiers asked for his papers only to beat and arrest him after he presented his US passport, according to lawyers representing his family.

He was sentenced in 2018 to 15 years in prison for allegedly taking part in anti-government demonstrations, but his lawyers said no evidence was presented against him personally during a mass trial that also included 700 other accused.

Washington had recently stepped up its remonstrations with the Egyptian government, despite the regular displays of friendship between President Donald Trump and his Egyptian counterpart.

Pompeo expressed concern about freedom of the press and human rights in Egypt, in response to a series of arrests of journalists, intellectuals and activists following a rare outbreak of demonstrations against Sisi in September.