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Witness Arrests in Rape Case Jolts #MeToo Movement in Egypt

September 25, 2020, 11.17 PM

CAIRO, – The #MeToo movement in Egypt has been jolted stemming from several witness arrests of a high-profile rape case that threaten to derail efforts to curb male sexual violence in the Arab country.

The rape case in Egypt involves a group of nine men from affluent families who are suspected of drugging and gang-raping a young woman in Cairo's luxury Fairmont hotel.

There are additional allegations of the men circulating a video of the assault which took place in 2014.

Read also: Cultural Norms Stall Deliberations of Indonesia's Sexual Violence Bill

However, the allegations only emerged online in July 2020 and a complaint was filed in early August 2020.

Five suspects were arrested, three of them in Lebanon which handed them over to Egyptian authorities this week.

Another four fled to the UK and the US, according to a women's activist connected to the case who requested anonymity. But events have taken a sudden U-turn.

At the end of last month, authorities also arrested four witnesses, along with two acquaintances with no direct links to the case, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW).

The US-based rights monitor said the six have been accused of "violating laws on 'morality' and 'debauchery'".

Several were pressured to alter their accounts, HRW cited activists as saying.

Hoda al-Sadda, an academic at Cairo University, expressed concern at the developments.

"That a clear-cut case with tangible evidence turns into a case where the culprits become the victims and witnesses are accused is... frightening," Sadda said.

'Chilling message'

Some of the detained witnesses have also been the target of smear campaigns, with compromising images post on the internet.

The anonymous activist told AFP that some had been forced to undergo "virginity tests" and anal examinations — practices HRW describes as "internationally discredited... with no scientific validity to 'prove' same-sex conduct or 'virginity'".


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