Egypt s Public Prosecution Hamada El-Sawy. Al-Ahram
Passant Khaled, a 16-year-old high school student, committed suicide in late December by swallowing pesticide after a number of young men sextorted her and circulated the photos in her village.
In a statement late on Tuesday, the prosecution said the five defendants are also facing the charge of “exploiting the weakness” of the victim by threatening her with the photos.
The prosecution said the defendants threatened Khaled to publish obscene photos of her with the aim of sexually exploiting her and forcing her to do indecent acts.
They are, therefore, charged with violating her personal life and the family principles of the Egyptian society using the internet.
Some of the defendants are also accused of indecently assaulting the girl by force and threats and asking her for favours while threatening her to publish the photos, the statement said.
The prosecution said it listened to the testimony of 13 witnesses and the confessions of the defendants. The prosecution added it also listened to the testimonies of other defendants --minors under the age of 18.
Investigative authorities have detained many people in the case over the past two weeks. One of Khaled’s teachers was arrested over bullying her but was then released due to lack of evidence.
According to the statement, the prosecution established evidence against the defendants by reviewing a report by the Ministry of Interior about the photos alleged to be of the girl and other official reports about phone calls between one of the defendants and the victim.
“The prosecution sensed through its investigations into the incident the distress the victim had suffered due to the defendants’ crime until she was forced to get rid of [this distress] by taking her own life,” the prosecution said.
The prosecution urged Egyptian parents to listen to their children and to understand their distress and forgive them for the mistakes they commit instead of leaving them to loneliness that can “lead to dire consequences.”
The tragic case, which has been trending on social media, has created an uproar after Khaled left a suicide note asking her mother to believe that the images were fake and that she was not the girl in the photos.
Egypt’s penal code criminalises extortion, threats, and violation of private life. In addition, Egypt’s data protection law criminalises these crimes on the internet.
In TV remarks following the incident MP Ehab Ramzy, a law professor, said extortion and threats to uncover personal secrets is punishable by up to five years in prison.
The prosecution called on legislators to consider toughening penalties of crimes violating private life that may drive victims to commit suicide as a result of threats.
Legislators should also consider criminalising the selling of pesticide tablets to non-specialists and toughening the penalty of selling them to children, the prosecution said, noting that it recognised they are easily circulated without restrictions.
Earlier this month, the National Council for Women (NCW) urged drafting more laws that penalise this kind of blackmail and launching awareness campaigns for women and girls to familiarise them with their rights and the means to protect themselves against these crimes.
Families should also believe their girls and stand by them, the prosecution said.
The NCW affirmed providing support and assistance to women and girls in similar circumstances, whether through in-person meetings, its hotline (15115), or WhatsApp number (010 0752 5600).
The prosecution urged public and private institutions to unify efforts to stand against suicide incidents and to enrol the means to avoid suicide in school curricula.
It also urged the media and people on social media to address the causes of suicide and means to avoid them.