The case of a 2014 gang rape of a young Egyptian woman in Cairo’s Fairmont Hotel continues to receive international criticism, especially as six months have passed since the crime was first reported, and the perpetrators have yet to appear in court.
“Egyptian authorities have failed to adequately investigate the suspects, four of whom remain in pretrial detention while several others are under investigation,” Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a statement on Monday.
The authorities are rather filing charges against four witnesses in the case and two of their acquaintances for ‘immorality” and “debauchery” ; which HRW called “all-encompassing terms that Egypt routinely uses as pretexts to prosecute women and LGBT people.”
“Instead of supporting these key witnesses, authorities kept them in pretrial custody, one for up to five months, subjected them to forced anal exams, ‘virginity tests,’ and drug testing, traumatized their families, and publicly smeared their reputations,” the organization said.
“Although all witnesses have been released, they remain accused of activities that should not be crimes in the first place: ‘suspicion of homosexuality,’ ‘inciting debauchery,’ personal drug use, and ‘misuse of social media,’” it added.
Several Fairmont witnesses told Human Rights Watch that authorities have banned them from traveling, whereas the prosecution waited weeks before moving to arrest the accused, allowing seven of them to flee the country. Three were extradited from Lebanon in September.
Nazli Karim, a 28-year-old witness, said she was accused of “promoting homosexuality” for having a rainbow flag filter on one of her social media pictures.
Two additional witnesses, Seif Bedour, 21, and Ahmed Ganzoury, 40, were held for months alongside four of the alleged rapists. Their phones were unlawfully searched, HRW said, and authorities used photos from their phones to accuse them of same-sex conduct.
HRW called on prosecutors to immediately drop all abusive charges and investigations against the witnesses in the Fairmont case. The organization demanded a timely, transparent, and comprehensive investigation into the assault and a fair trial to ensure that all suspects are held accountable.
Investigations into the Fairmont case began after Egypt’s Public Prosecution received a report on August 4 stating that a gang rape has allegedly occurred at the hotel during a private party in 2014.
The report was submitted by Egypt’s National Council for Women and accompanied by a complaint the victim had submitted to the council.
Testimonies about the incident have circulated on social media, with demands to arrest and prosecute the suspects, all of whom belong to wealthy and influential families.