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Egypt forensics authority fires doctor who said woman shot by police died because too skinny

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CAIRO — Egypt's forensics authority on Tuesday dismissed a doctor who said last weekend that a female protester killed by police in January died because she did not have enough body fat to protect against shotgun pellets.

Authority head Mahmoud Ahmed Ali also said in his statement that all doctors and officials at the authority are banned from making comments to the media or providing them with any information about their work.

The doctor, then-spokesman Hisham Abdel-Hamid, told a television program last weekend that Shaimaa el-Sabbagh was shot from around 8 meters (26 feet) away and died in what was a rare incident at that distance where shotgun pellets managed to penetrate her heart and lungs because she was "very skinny."

"Her body was, as they say, like skin over bone," he said in an interview on the Sada al-Balad television channel. "She had no percentage of fat at all, so the small pellets penetrated very easily."

An official in the authority said that Abdel-Hamid is being questioned by the Justice Ministry for statements made on a program without the required permission, but did not name the program. He spoke under condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to speak to journalists. Reached by telephone, Abdel-Hamid said he had retired and could not comment any further because he was ill.

The killing of el-Sabbagh, a mother of a young boy, at a Jan. 24 demonstration on the eve of the anniversary of Egypt's 2011 uprising, provoked intense public outcry. Despite widely circulated footage that showed two masked, black-clad policemen pointing their rifles in el-Sabbagh's direction as gunshots rang out and a voice commanded "fire," authorities initially denied that police had any involvement in her death.

The uproar prompted Egypt's President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi to urge an investigation but he hinted that individual mistakes should not undermine public confidence in the police. The interior minister at the time of her death has since been replaced in a Cabinet shuffle.

Chief Prosecutor Hisham Barakat has charged one police officer with involuntary manslaughter, punishable by up to seven years. No trial date has been set.

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