Murder suspects face trial as Egypt mourns the teenage 'Martyr of Chivalry'

Zeinab El-Gundy , Monday 14 Oct 2019

The 18-year-old high school student Mahmoud El-Banna
Photo of the victim Mahmoud El-Banna

A Menoufiya criminal court has set 20 October to start the trial of three teenagers accused of murdering another teen who defended a girl from sexual harassment in a crime that has caused outrage across the country.

The crime took place last week in the city of Tala in Menoufiya governorate, when the victim, 18-year-old high school student Mahmoud El-Banna, intervened to stop a group of boys from beating and sexually harassing a teenage girl in the street, according to Al-Ahram Arabic news website, which cited security sources.

Following the incident, El-Banna later posted a comment on social media reportedly directed at the main perpetrator of the harassment – who has been identified as 17-year-old M. Rageh – saying, "It is not manly to beat a girl in the street."

Later that night, Rageh – armed with a blade – and two accomplices reportedly ambushed and attacked El-Banna in the street. According to eyewitnesses, the suspects stabbed El-Banna three times before fleeing the scene.

The suspects also reportedly sprayed passersby with a chemical substance after they attempted to intervene to stop the attack.

Following the stabbing, bystanders took the young man to hospital, where he died of his injuries.

On Thursday, police in Tala announced that Rageh and his accomplices had been arrested. The Tala prosecution has ordered the suspects to be detained pending trial, where they face charges of premeditated murder.

A crime that shook the nation

El-Banna's funeral, which was held on Thursday in Tala, was attended by thousands of angry mourners, including many high school students, who chanted to call for justice for the young man's murder.

Soon after, the Arabic hashtag #Rageh_is_a_murderer became trending on Facebook and Twitter, with users posting the hashtag alongside images of El-Banna as well as the main suspect, Rageh.

Four days later, the hashtags #Execute_Rageh, #Rageh_is_a_murderer and #Mahmoud_El-Banna are still among the top trending hashtags in Egypt on Twitter and Facebook.

Media outlets have since dubbed El-Banna "The Martyr of Chivalry."

Rageh to be tried as a minor

The three suspects, none of whom have reached the age of 18, will be tried as minors before the juvenile criminal court in accordance with Egyptian law.

The suspects, who face a maximum penalty of 10 to 15 years in prison, would have faced the death penalty if tried as adults.

Rageh will turn 18 in November.

Viral CCTV footage and rumours stoke the fire

Over the past two days , two leaked CCTV videos related to the crime have been circulated online; the first showing the initial harassment incident and the second showing El-Banna being chased by the suspects shortly before the killing.

Rumours have also circulated that the girl who was harassed by Rageh and his accomplices had recanted her statement to the prosecution, which has been denied by the lawyers in the case, who say that the girl has not given any statements before the prosecution

Not the first murder of a good Samaritan

This is not the first murder to take place in Egypt recently due to a bystander intervening to the stop the harassment of a woman.

In January 2019 , 36-year-old Sayed Taha was stabbed to death when he intervened to prevent the sexual harassment of a woman in South Cairo.

The suspect in the murder has been referred to trial and faces the death penalty if found guilty.   

Verbal and physical sexual harassment in public places is commonplace in Egypt, and arrests have been made in accordance with a 2014 law that punishes sexual harassment with at least six months in jail and a fine of at least EGP 3,000.

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