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Sunday, 12 July 2020

Egypt renews detention of young TikToker pending investigation into rape claims

Sama Osama , El-Sayed Gamal El-Din , Sunday 31 May 2020
Abd El-Aziz
TikToker ‘Menna Abd El-Aziz’ (Photo: Al-Ahram)
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Egyptian prosecutors renewed on Sunday the detention of an underage Egyptian TikToker known by the alias ‘Menna Abd El-Aziz’ and six others for 15 days pending investigations into the young girl’s sexual assault claims, a judicial source said.

Abdel Aziz, 17, was arrested on 26 May. Prosecutors accused her of “inciting debauchery” and “forging an online account”, rights group Egyptian initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), whose lawyers represent the girl, said on Sunday.

The public prosecutor’s office said in a statement Saturday that some of the defendants raped Abd El-Aziz, while others sexually assaulted, beat and robbed her.

The prosecution said that Abd El-Aziz will be examined by a forensic pathologist to determine how her injuries were sustained and to what extent she was sexually assaulted.

The prosecution did not disclose in its statement the details of the incident, merely describing it as “painful.”

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

Last week, Abd El-Aziz said in a live Instagram video that one of her friends had raped, beaten and injured her. She added that the person also filmed the incident without her consent.

She claimed that three of her female friends conspired with the alleged rapist to assault her, and then one of these female friends uploaded a video of part of the incident online.

In her video, Abd El-Aziz pled for help from the government.

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.

In a series of videos and social media posts, the assailants 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 has made up with him, asserting that “people were trying to drive a wedge between them".

The prosecution said in its Saturday statement 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.

“The defendant [Abd El-Aziz] has admitted to committing some crimes that she could be punished for; however, the young minor’s harsh socioeconomic conditions… led her to commit such crimes,” the prosecution said.

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

According to Article 267 of the Egyptian penal law, the crime of “sexual intercourse with a female without her consent is punishable by death or life imprisonment.”

The article also says that the perpetrator can face the death penalty if the victim has not reached the age of eighteen, 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 penal law stipulates that sexual assault is punishable by a minimum prison sentence of seven years and a maximum of life imprisonment.

The prosecution said this case, and other cases that it has investigated recently, “warns of imminent dangers to the youth of this country” that are reaching them through cyberspace.

It added that this cyberspace “is not subject to any monitoring, under fake slogans falsely calling for freedom of expression.”

It urged parents and officials to not turn a blind eye to things that are “spreading lewdness” among the youth under calls for liberalisation.

This is not the first time that the public prosecutor’s office has attacked social media and warned of what it perceives as moral dangers targeting the youth in the “unsupervised cyberspaces.”

In late April, two female TikTok influencers were arrested for “immorality.”

On 14 May, TikTok influencer Mawada Eladhm was arrested and charged with “violating the Egyptian family’s values and principles.”

Eladhm, who has 3.1 million followers on TikTok, became famous for posting lip syncing and dance videos.

On 21 April, 20-year-old Haneen Hossam, also a TikTok influencer with over 1 million followers on the app, was arrested and charged with "inciting debauchery and immorality" through posting videos on the app.

Hossam was charged for a video in which she was recruiting women to join a group she created on short-video sharing platform Likee, with the purpose of promoting the platform in return for payment.

Two days after she was released on EGP 50,000 (approximately $3,000) bail on 7 May, a Cairo court accepted the general prosecution’s appeal against the order, and ordered the renewed 15-day detention of Hossam, who has been detained ever since.

TikTok is a Chinese social media application in which users typically share short lip syncing, dance and comedy videos. According to a report by the technology news website The Verge in April, the application has been downloaded over 2 billion times.

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