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Tuesday, 04 August 2020

Six defendants referred to criminal court over sexual abuse of Egyptian TikTok teenager

The referral comes more than a month after Egypt's prosecutor general directed that the teenager involved be admitted to a rehabilitation centre designated for abused women

El-Sayed Gamal El-Din , Sunday 26 Jul 2020
Menna Abdel Aziz
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Egypt’s public prosecution has referred six people to criminal court on charges including kidnapping and sexual assault of an underage Egyptian TikToker known by the alias ‘Menna Abd El-Aziz’, a statement by the public prosecutor’s office said on Sunday.

The defendants, four young men and two women, were referred to court on charges including kidnapping Abdel Aziz, “having sex with her without her consent”, and “indecent assault using force and threat," the statement said. They also face accusations of robbing the victim, threatening to defame her, and violating her privacy online.

The statement said that the prosecution has provided evidence to support the accusations from Abd El-Aziz’s testimony, police investigations, testimonies given by the defendants to prosecutors, a forensics report confirming assault on the victim, and proof of drug use by some of the defendants.

The case of Abdel Aziz, 17, came to light in May after she posted a live Instagram video claiming that one of her friends had raped, beaten and injured her, and pleaded for help from the government.

She was arrested on 26 May and ordered detained pending investigations over charges including “inciting debauchery” and “forging an online account,” her lawyers at rights group Egyptian initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) said at the time.

Two weeks later, Egypt's public prosecutor ordered Abd Al-Aziz be transferred from custody to a rehabilitation centre designated for abused women amid investigations into the young girl’s sexual abuse claims.

Abd El-Aziz’s video went viral, sparking a lot of controversy on social media, with some people claiming that the alleged rape victim “deserved” what happened to her due to what they described as her “inappropriate” behaviour and social media posts, while many others came to her defence, saying that rape is a crime regardless of the victim’s behaviour.

EIPR had called for her “immediate release”, saying that prosecutors should have dealt with her as a “victim and a rape survivor” rather than a defendant.

In a series of videos and social media posts, the culprits mentioned in Abd El-Aziz’s video denied her claims, accusing her of stealing a mobile phone and claiming that she had sex with the alleged rapist consensually.

Later, Abd El-Aziz appeared in an Instagram video with her alleged rapist where she said that she had made up with him, asserting that “people were trying to drive a wedge between [us]."

The prosecution said in previous statements that Abd El-Aziz was pressured by the family of one of her attackers to announce on social media that she had reconciled with him.

It said that Abd El-Aziz “was driven into a dangerous life in which she met with the rest of the defendants who assaulted her.”

Under the Egyptian penal code, rape and sexual assault can be punished with jail terms of up to a life sentence. The addition of aggravating circumstances could lead to the death penalty.

Article 267 also says that the perpetrator can face the death penalty if the victim is under the age of 18, or if the perpetrator was the victim’s kin, guardian, wage servant, had authority over her, or if multiple perpetrators committed the crime.

Article 268 of the law stipulates that sexual assault is punishable by a minimum prison sentence of seven years and a maximum of life imprisonment.

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