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Nine defendants given 20 years to life in prison for Tahrir mob sexual assaults

Nine defendants received prison sentences by a Cairo court on Wednesday, ranging from life to 20 years, in a case dubbed by Arabic language media as the “Tahrir Harassment” trial.

Female survivors of the Tahrir Square mob sexual assaults, for which the defendants are accused, have dubbed this a victory. The defendants deny the charges.

“It’s a good verdict, of course. I didn’t think we’d get our rights like this,” a 29-year-old mother of three, who survived an attack on June 8, told Mada Masr.

She wasn’t at the court today, because she wasn’t told the verdict was being announced. “If I knew, I would have gone. I would have been happy to see something like this with my own eyes,” she said.

The defendants’ families reacted to the verdict by trying to storm the Cairo court, making it difficult for the women’s lawyers and one of the survivors to exit past them.

As the sentences were announced, the defendants screamed: “We’re innocent.”

The verdicts were given in four separate cases on Wednesday. Three defendants in case 982, which refers to a woman who was sexually assaulted in Tahrir Square on 25 January 2013, received life in prison, five years under surveillance and a LE10,000 fine, according to state-owned news website Ahram Gate. 

In total, at least 25 women were sexually assaulted during protests and celebrations in the square for the second anniversary of the 25 January Uprising. However, only one woman pursued court proceedings this year.

Mariam Kirollos, a women’s rights defender who closely monitored the 25 January 2013 testimonies and court files submitted at the time, told Mada Masr: “If the prosecution did a proper investigation and those are the actual suspects, and if they’ve used the evidence from the testimonies provided by the survivors, then I think this is a victory we cannot neglect.”

“The cases that I know of that were filed in 2013 are not sexual harassment cases. Even the name of the 2014 trial is problematic. The cases were ranging from severe sexual assault to rape,” she said.

In February 2013, seven women submitted their testimonies, including Yasmine al-Barawamy, who was sexually assaulted and raped near Tahrir Square in November 2012. However, the court case was never taken further.

“I can only hope the prosecution has exerted enough effort to hold the right people accountable, not just some kids for propaganda reasons to show that they are focusing on cases of violence against women,” Kirollos said.

Mob sexual assaults in Tahrir Square have repeatedly involved dozens of men encircling a woman and attacking her, often with sharp objects. 

“We can’t afford for real criminals to roam the streets, because sadly there are so many criminals out there and it [sexual harassment and assault] has become the accepted crime on the Egyptian street,” Kirollos said.

Last year, Interior Ministry officials said the crime rate had about tripled in Egypt since the 2011 uprising.

Sentences given in other cases on Wednesday refer to crimes perpetrated on June 8, 2014, the day Abdel Fattah al-Sisi was inaugurated as President.

Thousands of people filled Tahrir Square to celebrate, but as the evening got darker at least six women were violently sexually assaulted by mobs of youths.

Six defendants in case 6329, which refers to two women that were attacked, received prison sentences ranging from life to 20 years, five years surveillance and LE50,000 civil compensation, according to Ahram Gate.

In case 6330, which refers to a 21-year-old university student, three defendants received life in prison and a fourth got 20 years. And in case 6328, in which another university student was badly beaten, causing her to loose sight in her left eye, the three defendants received life in prison.

Lawyer Mostafa Mohamed, who works for the non-governmental Nazra for Feminist Studies, told Mada Masr that he and another lawyer working on behalf of the women still need to study the details of the verdicts and court procedures before being able to comment on the legalities of the sentences.

But, he said, “Of course, this is has been very good news for the women. It has given them some peace of mind.”

Today’s verdict did not include the case of a 42-year-old woman, who was attacked on the night of June 3, the day Sisi was announced as the winner of Egypt’s presidential elections.

She had gone to the Square to report on the celebrations taking place when her and her daughter were violently mob sexually assaulted. Her bloodied and bruised naked body was filmed and uploaded to You Tube, and the video went viral.

The woman is still in hospital receiving treatment for burns on 40 percent of her body after someone threw hot water on her and surgery for wounds to her genitalia. She received a visit from President Sisi, who apologized to her and promised he’d get her rights back.

Her lawyer told Mada Masr today that a court date has not yet been set for the verdict.

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