Security forces detained at least three women who are key witnesses in the 2014 Fairmont rape case, two sources close to the campaigns for the arrest of the alleged perpetrators told Mada Masr on Saturday.
The three witnesses had previously come forward with information regarding the case to the public prosecution.
Allegations of a violent gang rape at the Fairmont Nile City Hotel in 2014 first appeared on social media late last month, and the Public Prosecution issued warrants to arrest suspects on August 24.
Security forces detained two of the women on Friday, one from her home in the early hours of the morning, and one from her car. Their lawyers were unable to confirm their whereabouts with the Public Prosecution, according to the source.
On Saturday, security forces detained a third witness, who had fled her home in Cairo for fear of being detained, according to the sources.
Lawyer Azza Soliman, who represented the victim at an earlier stage in the official proceedings, published a post on her Facebook page on Saturday afternoon. “Strangely, most of the key witnesses from the Fairmont case have been arrested since yesterday, and nobody knows anything about them,” she wrote.
None of the women detained have had access to their lawyers. Other detentions of witnesses and people associated with the case have been reported by lawyers and sources close to the campaign, but Mada Masr has been unable to independently verify the reports.
Security forces arrested one of the suspects in the case, whom the prosecution named as Amir Zayed, as he attempted to flee the country on August 26. Zayed is one of only two suspects who was still in the country when the warrants were issued. The other seven suspects had all fled the country in late July, a few days before the plaintiff brought her official complaint to the National Council for Women on August 4, according to the prosecution’s statement.
Meanwhile, an official Egyptian source told Mada Masr that Lebanese security forces arrested three of the accused in the Fairmont case on Thursday, after Interpol issued a Red Notice for their arrest on Egypt’s request. The red notice mechanism allows Interpol’s member states to request law enforcement worldwide to locate and provisionally arrest wanted persons.
The official source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, clarified that reports of four suspects arrested in Lebanon were inaccurate, and that the correct number is three. The source expects a delegation from Egypt’s Interior Ministry to travel to Lebanon and bring the suspects back to Egypt, or for them to be deported as detainees for questioning in the case.
The Fairmont case has garnered a large amount of social media attention since allegations of a gang rape at the Fairmont hotel in 2014 first appeared publicly late last month on Assault Police, a social media account that ignited a firestorm in early July when it first reported on dozens of accusations of sexual assault, harassment and blackmail by Ahmed Bassam Zaki, a 21-year-old university student. Zaki is currently imprisoned in remand detention on multiple charges of harassment and sexual assault.
After putting out a call for testimony and information on the Fairmont hotel incident, the administrators of Assault Police suspended activity on the account and deleted their posts after they reportedly began to receive death threats. Other pages quickly sprang up, including Gang Rapists of Cairo and Catcalls of Cairo.
According to Gang Rapists of Cairo, an anonymous Instagram account that has led a campaign to expose the 2014 assault, at least six men drugged the victim with GHB — commonly referred to as a “date rape” drug — abducted her to a hotel room, took turns raping her, and wrote their initials on the victim’s body. According to the account, the rapists filmed the assault and circulated the video among their acquaintances.
The Gang Rapists of Cairo account stated that it had gathered testimonies suggesting that this might not be the only act of sexual violence the accused are implicated in, and encouraged anyone who had evidence to come forward to the prosecution and not share it with others in order to protect the victim’s rights.
Gang Rapists of Cairo and other accounts posted the names and photographs of several men accused of involvement in the rape from late July. In early August, the account started posting information that some of the accused had fled the country, and more were planning to.
The Public Prosecution’s August 24 announcement that it had issued arrest warrants in the case after official complaints were filed with the National Council for Women did not name the suspects or state the number of suspects. In the prosecutor’s statement two days later, announcing that seven of nine suspects had fled the country, the prosecution said that publishing the photos and names of the accused on social media had served to warn them and prompted them to flee before the official investigation began.