Imprisonment and a fine for two lawyers accused of defamation and threatening a victim of a mob sexual assault in Meet Ghamr

Press Release

3 November 2021

On Sunday, October 30th, the Mansoura Economic Misdemeanors Court ruled in the case of defamation and threats to the victim in an incident of mob sexual assault in the city of Meet Ghamr, which took place in December 2020. The court ruled against Hani Mossad Abada Al-Saeedi, the lawyer of one of the defendants in the mob assault case, sentencing him to two years in prison, a bail of five thousand pounds, and a fine of 300,000 pounds, and against Khaled El-Desouky, a lawyer for one of the defendants as well, sentencing him to six months imprisonment, a bail of five thousand pounds, and a fine of 15 thousand pounds. The court dismissed the civil suit of the defendants and referred the civil suit of the victim to the civil court. The sentenced lawyers were the lawyers of the defendants in the original case of mob sexual assault on a young woman in Meet Ghamr.

During the investigation into the original felony, which included indecent assault and collective sexual harassment, both lawyers had published defamation videos targeting the victim on their personal accounts, in which they threatened to submit reports accusing her of "violating family values". The two lawyers also published personal photos of the victim, stolen from her personal accounts, in order to pressure and threaten her to change her statements against the seven defendants accused of assaulting her. Lawyers of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) and the Center for Egyptian Women Legal Aid (CEWLA), as legal representatives for the victim, submitted evidence of this defamation and threat to Meet Ghamr's partial prosecution. Consequently, the Public Prosecution referred the two lawyers to trial before the Economic Court, in July of this year, on charges of insulting and libeling the victim, infringing on the sanctity of private life, misusing communication devices to pursue the victim, and using an account on social media to commit these crimes.

This verdict and trial come against the background of the victim being subjected to a mass sexual assault in December 2020, as previously mentioned, in one of the main streets in the city of Meet Ghamr, an assault, parts of which were filmed on video. Those videos provoked a wave of great support online for the victim. These events were supplemented by an official statement from the Public Prosecution confirming the facts of the prosecution and the physical harassment of the victim. The statement referred to the Public Prosecution's condemnation of the defamation and the threat directed against the victim with the aim of intimidating her from participating in the investigation and influencing its course. Then, the Public Prosecution referred seven defendants to trial last December after the victim identified them. However, the Seventh Circuit of the Mansoura Criminal Court issued a shocking verdict acquitting them on March 21. Accordingly, several women's rights organizations called on the Public Prosecution to appeal the acquittal. The Public Prosecution appealed the ruling, and the trial date has not yet been set.

EIPR and CEWLA welcome the ruling, and see in it a clear message regarding the right of victims in cases of sexual violence to be protected from defamation and threats at the hands of the accused, their lawyers, their families, or others with the aim of intimidating them from reporting or participating in the investigations to ensure that the aggressors are prosecuted. The two institutions hope that the trial of the seven accused of sexual assault, after the prosecution’s appeal, will confirm the right of women and girls to be protected from sexual violence, especially forms of mob sexual violence, which despite their recurrence over the years, were rarely investigated, referred to trial, and successfully ruled on. The two institutions salute the victim's courage and determination. Over the course of nearly a year, despite all the difficulties, threats and defamation that affected her and her family, she was able to continue to claim her legal right to protection from violence, defamation and threats for her insistence on speaking out about the assault she experienced.

In generally, the two institutions hope that this ruling will open the gate to the realization of the paramount importance of protecting victims and witnesses, especially in cases of sexual violence, from any threat and influence, in order to ensure the effectiveness of the law in reducing daily sexual violence in Egypt. The two organizations reiterate their demand that the Public Prosecution Office announces and implements a new public policy to ensure the protection of victims and witnesses from retaliation, threats and defamation by defendants or others, and to effectively protect the identities and privacy of victims in sexual violence cases, as well as to protect victims and witnesses in sexual violence cases from accusations unrelated to the subject of the complaints, according to the public prosecution’s discretionary power to press charges. We also demand the speedy issuance of a law to protect victims, witnesses, whistleblowers and experts to ensure fair trial guarantees and access to the desired justice for women, girls and others in cases of sexual violence.