Egypt sends 13 to trial for sexual violence

2014-06-14 20:26
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Cairo - Egypt's top prosecutor referred 13 men to trial on Saturday for attempted rape and assault of women during public rallies in Cairo's iconic Tahrir square, the first implementation of tough new penalties against rampant sexual violence, the state news agency reported.

The speedy trial reflects a government push to address the issue. Harassment has long been a problem in Egypt, but assaults have become more frequent and gruesome over the past three years of turmoil.

It comes less than a week after the inauguration of President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi, who ordered a crackdown on sexual violence. Celebrations in Tahrir square of his inauguration were marred by a string of brutal mob attacks on women.

Following the emergence of a video showing one of the assaults, el-Sisi visited one of the survivors, apologising to her and promising tough actions against the attackers. The First Lady, in her first official function, also paid a visit to the survivor on Friday.

Egypt's state news agency MENA said the country's top prosecutor Hesham Barakat referred 13 men to trial for taking part in at least three separate incidents of sexual assault, including one at the inauguration celebration and one from January 2013. One of the defendants is a minor, aged 14.

The men are accused of kidnapping the women, assaulting them, torturing them, robbing them, and attempting to murder and rape them. The charges carry a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

Egypt only recently criminalised sexual harassment, a much lesser charge than that which the 13 men face.

In one of his last decisions before stepping down, Adly Mansour, Egypt's interim president and el-Sisi's predecessor, decreed sexual harassment a crime punishable by up to five years in prison.

The decree issued earlier this month was much-anticipated as a way to combat the abuse, deeply rooted in Egypt. The decree amended the country's existing laws, which did not criminalise sexual harassment and only vaguely referred to such offenses as indecent assault.

Harassers face between six months to five years in prison, with harsher sentences reserved for offenders holding a position of power over their victims, like being a woman's superior at work or being armed with a weapon.

Offenders would be prosecuted whether they commit harassment in public or in private, and repeat offenders would see their sentences doubled.

Along with the maximum five-year sentence, offenders can be fined up to 5 000 Egyptian pounds, with the maximum fine reserved for harassers who use a weapon or pressure.

- AP
Read more on:    abdel fattah el-sisi  |  egypt  |  north africa
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