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Egypt refers 13 to trial over Tahrir sex attacks

Updated: 2014-06-16 08:38
By Agence France-Presse in Cairo ( China Daily)

Egypt's prosecution service referred 13 men to trial on Sunday for alleged sex attacks on women in Cairo's Tahrir Square, including during inaugural celebrations for new President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

It is the first time charges have been brought in the North African country in connection with mass sexual assaults.

The attacks took place on Jan 25, 2013, as Egypt marked the second anniversary of the 2011 revolt, and on June 3 and June 8 this year as revelers marked Sisi's election victory and inauguration, the prosecutor general's office said.

The 13 accused, including a minor, are charged with "kidnapping, raping, sexually attacking, attempting to murder and torturing the women", it said.

If convicted of the charges, the defendants could be sentenced to life imprisonment.

Since the uprising that toppled longtime president Hosni Mubarak in 2011, the problem of sexual harassment has worsened in Egypt, with women regularly attacked during rallies by groups of men in and around Tahrir Square, the epicenter of protests.

Activists were outraged this week after graphic video footage of a woman being sexually assaulted at Tahrir Square went viral on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter.

The footage, apparently filmed using a mobile phone, shows a mob of men surrounding a young woman, who was stripped and badly bruised in the assault.

It was unclear whether the victim in the video was among those attacked during the pro-Sisi celebrations.

The prosecution service said police were searching for the person who recorded the video as this action was against "public morals".

Egypt, which had no specific law on sexual harassment, only recently approved penalties for such offenses to include jail terms, fines or both.

The prosecution service described the June 3 and 8 Tahrir attacks that took place during the pro-Sisi celebrations.

"Two groups of criminals went to the square and caught a woman and her daughter. They took the woman to an area near a mosque close to the square where she was attacked and stripped of her clothes," it said of the June 3 assault.

"They beat her and when she tried to escape, hot water fell on her, causing serious burn injuries. Despite this, the attackers circled her and sexually attacked her until she was rescued by police and citizens."

Three people were arrested in connection with this attack. On June 8, several women from17 to 42were attacked in the square by members of the same mob who carried out the June 3 assault, the prosecution said.

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