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The New Arab Staff

Sexual assault cases rock Egypt with criticism over handling

Victims of sexual assault have been accused by the authorities of "immorality". [Getty]

Date of publication: 10 February, 2021

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Two cases of sexual assault in Egypt have revealed faults in prosecuting the accused and caring for victims.
Egypt is grappling with two separate sexual assault cases - one highlighting the steps that have been taken to address the issue and the other underlining monumental failings by authorities.

Egypt's public prosecutor has announced that a high-profile dentist accused of sexual assault will stand trial.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has lambasted authorities for failing to prosecute several men accused of taking part in the gang-rape of a woman at Cairo's Fairmont Hotel in 2014 and pursuing the witnesses to the crime instead.

Six men have accused celebrity dentist, BS, of sexual assault while they were at his clinic, including groping and extortion.

An official statement said that a case has been built based on the testimonies of the six victims and video evidence discovered on the phone of the dentist, who denies the charges. 

Allegations first arose in September and the defendant was arrested in January.

Prosecutors accused the dentist of having a three-year relationship with one male client, filming sexual encounters between the two men, and threatening to publish the material online unless he agreed to continue the relationship.

The case became highly publicised due to two of the witnesses being well-known Egyptian celebrities.

Actor and screenwriter Abbas Abul-Hassan and singer/songwriter Tameem Youness were among those who came forward to accuse the dentist and share their stories.

In a post on Facebook, Abul-Hassan accused the dentist of being "a criminal who disguises himself in the clothes of a doctor who has wreaked havoc for decades, hiding in relations, influence, huge wealth and a religious position... a doctor who spread terror in the hearts of graduates of the Faculty of Dentistry, and silenced large numbers of them for decades".

It is unusual for men in Egypt to speak publicly about sexual assaults due to social stigma, but Abul-Hassan said that stopping the accused dentist was "an imperative duty".

Following the dentist's arrest in January, Tameem Youness came forward and gave a description of his alleged experiences in an Instagram video

While many Egyptians have praised the men for speaking publicly about their experiences, Cairo has also been lambasted by HRW for failing to "adequately investigate the suspects" of a gang-rape that occurred in 2014.

Six-months-ago, a woman told Egyptian police that she had been gang-raped by several men at Cairo's Fairmont Hotel.

While the suspects were detained, authorities also pursued the witnesses accusing them of spurious "immorality" and "debauchery" charges.

Such charges are used by authorities as "the all-encompassing terms Egypt routinely uses as pretexts to prosecute women and LGBT people", according to HRW.

Witnesses were held in pre-trial detention, one for five months.

During their detention, the witnesses were subjected to inhuman and humiliating treatment, including forced anal exams, "virginity tests", and drug testing.

In October, two of the witnesses - Seif Bedour, 21, and Ahmed Ganzoury, 40 - were transferred to Al-Nahda prison, were they were held in the same cell as the suspected Fairmont rapists.

Nazli Karim, 28, another of the witnesses, was accused by authorities of "promoting homosexuality" because she had a "rainbow flag filter on her profile picture" on social media.

According to HRW, witnesses have been banned from travelling to "stop them from escaping punishment" and "prevent interference with the investigation".

But HRW also noted that the men accused of rape were able to leave the country without question.  

Read more: 'Educate, partner up!' Could Egypt's growing sexual harassment problem usher in a digital #MeToo?

HRW described how the alleged misogynistic and homophobic motivations of Egyptian officials "continue to ruin ordinary people's lives, while their twisted idea of 'justice' equates alleged rapists with witnesses whose only mistake was trusting their government to deliver justice".

HRW said that prosecutors should immediately drop all charges and investigations against witnesses in the Fairmont case.

"Egyptian authorities should implement a timely, transparent, and comprehensive investigation into the assault and bring the case to fair trial to ensure that all suspects, not only the four who remain in pretrial detention, are held accountable in court," said HRW.

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