Saturday, September 20, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

13 held for trial in Egypt assaults

CAIRO - Egypt's top prosecutor referred 13 men to trial for attempted rape and assault of women during public rallies in Cairo's Tahrir Square, the first implementation of tough new penalties against rampant sexual violence, the state news agency reported.

The speedy trial reflects a government push to address the issue, and comes less than a week after the swearing-in of President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi. Harassment has long been a problem in Egypt, but assaults have become more frequent and gruesome over the last three years of turmoil.

Since longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak stepped down in February 2011, rallies in Tahrir have brought escalating attacks on women - raising concerns among activists that it was an attempt to keep protesters away from a public square that had become a place of dissent. But authorities did little to combat the problem then, and independent groups started initiatives to protect women.

The mob assaults this month caused particular public outcry as they happened during celebrations of Sissi's inauguration, and footage of one brutal attack was widely circulated.

That prompted the new leader to make the highest-profile condemnation yet of the escalating violence and order a crackdown on perpetrators.

Sissi visited one of the survivors of the violence, issuing what may be the first presidential apology to a civilian and promising her he would take tough action against the attackers.

The state news agency MENA said the country's top prosecutor, Hesham Barakat, referred the 13 to trial for taking part in at least three incidents of sexual assault, including one at the inauguration celebration and one in January 2013. One of the defendants is 14 years old. No date for trial was set.

The men are accused of kidnapping the women, assaulting and torturing them, and attempting to rape and murder them. The charges carry a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

Laura Dean Associated Press
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