March 23, 2015 4:56 AM EDT

A spokesman for Egypt’s Medical Forensics Authority claimed in a broadcast Saturday that an activist shot by police in January near Cairo’s Tahrir Square succumbed to her injuries because she was underweight.

Shaimaa al-Sabbagh, 31, died from close-range bird-shot pellets in a senseless killing that shocked the world after photographs of her death appeared in international media. A police officer is to face manslaughter charges for her death, reports the New York Times.

According to the Times, medical official Hisham Abdel Hamid said, “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 — these four or five pellets were able to penetrate her heart and lungs, and these are the ones that caused her death.”

MORE: Egyptian Activist Shot and Killed During Peaceful Protest in Cairo

Hamid argued that a man marching next to al-Sabbagh, who was also struck by police fire, survived the shots because he had more body fat.

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

[NYT]

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