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Egyptian activists to continue struggle against 'virginity test' perpetrators

Lawyers, activists say they 'aren't surprised' by Sunday's not-guilty verdict in the so called 'virginity tests' case; Egypt's honour was trampled on, says plaintiff

Nada El-Kouny, Sunday 11 Mar 2012
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Samira Ibrahim attends protest against military council violations and virginity tests, with banners reading, "Red Line", Tahrir Square in Cairo, 27 December, 2011.
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A Cairo military court on Sunday acquitted Dr. Ahmed Adel El-Mogy, a military physician, of carrying out "virginity tests" on seven female activists one year ago.

"Public displeasure with Egypt's ruling military council has manifested itself in this campaign against me," El-Mogy said at a post-verdict press conference. "Despite the not-guilty verdict, this case has served to defame me and my family."

In response to the ruling, the Egyptian Women's Alliance (still under formation) called for a protest to be held at the Supreme Administrative Court on 16 March to coincide with Egyptian Women's Day. The alliance, however, denied that the day would be a celebration, asserting instead that it represented an opportunity to continue the fight against the "mockery" of Egypt's military prosecution system.         

After the announcement of the verdict at noon on Sunday, activist Samira Ibrahim, who initially brought the charge against El-Mogy, could be seen crying while surrounded by supporters outside the Military Court Complex in Cairo.

"No one violated my honour – it is Egypt's honour that has been violated; I vow to continue the struggle until the end to reclaim our rights," Ibrahim declared on Twitter (@Samiraibrahim4).  

Maha Maamoun of the "No to Military Trials" campaign said that the final verdict had been expected, since "the perpetrator of the crime is at the same time the person investigating it." Maamoun went on to assert that the trial's very premise was faulty, since it had featured a military court investigating charges lodged against its superiors, Egypt's ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF).     

Human rights lawyer Ragia Omran likewise stated that she had not been surprised by the verdict. She stated that the case's primary goal had not been to indict the army doctor – since he had only been following orders – but to target the "man in charge," in a reference to the military official who had ordered the alleged tests in the first place.

Omran clarified that the ruling did not necessarily contradict a previous one issued by the State Council Administrative Court – which banned the practice of conducting "virginity tests" – since this only applied to future scenarios but not necessarily to Ibrahim's case.   

She added that it remained unclear what steps would be taken next, as no official response had yet been made in this regard by Ibrahim's lawyer. The plaintiff's lawyers may, however, appeal the case. This is in addition to the possibility that the second alleged victim to testify, Rasha Abdelrahman, may file a second lawsuit. 

"Seeking justice through international channels is also an option," Omran told Ahram Online.  

The tests allegedly took place after military personnel broke up a sit-in in Cairo’s Tahrir Square on 9 March of last year. A number of female detainees later said they had been tortured and subjected to so-called “virginity tests” the following day.

On 27 December, 2011 the State Council Administrative Court issued a landmark ruling in Ibrahim’s favour, outlawing the practice of virginity testing. On the same day, the head of Egypt’s military judiciary, Adel El-Morsy, stated that the administrative court’s order to suspend the practice was not, in fact, applicable, because such a practice had never been part of the military’s prison code.

On 7 February, 2012, two prison wardens summoned to deliver testimony denied that the incident had ever even taken place. The two wardens claimed that the women in question had only been asked by army personnel if they were married and whether or not they were pregnant.

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