Campaigners call ruling by military court a ‘sham’ after Ahmed Adel is found not guilty of enforcing tests on arrested women
An army doctor has been acquitted by a military court of carrying out forced virginity tests on female protesters in Egypt last year, dealing a blow to activists and the women at the centre of the case.
Ahmed Adel was found not guilty of public indecency by the military court in Cairo. He was accused of performing the tests on seven female detainees at a military prison after they were arrested in Tahrir Square on 9 March 2011.
The reason for the ruling given by the presiding judge was contradictions in the witness testimonies of the three women who had come forward.
The first woman to file charges, Samira Ibrahim, was outside court when the verdict was announced. Visibly upset, she joined others in chanting against military rule. She later said on Twitter: “Nobody assaulted my honour. It was Egypt’s honour that was assaulted and I will keep going till the very end to regain its rights.”
Adel was brought to trial on charges of public indecency and disobeying military orders. After the verdict he told the press that the case was only brought against him because of pressure from the media and foreign organisations such as Amnesty International and Freedom House, whose motives he questioned.
Soha Abdel-Aty, assistant director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), which represents Ibrahim, told the Guardian there was no expectation of justice from a military court, in which she had “no faith” and was not independent.
“This is entirely a show to convince public opinion that an investigation was being conducted. The whole sham started out with the fact that the military prosecutor decided to bring this doctor to court with an accusation that did not fit the bill,” she said.
The charges referred to the conducting of a medical examination in an open space, and thus the allegation of the “virginity tests” was never even acknowledged, she said.
Maj Gen Adel al-Mursi, head of the military prosecution, defended the verdict in a statement carried by Egypt’s official news agency. He said the judge ruled “according to his conscience and in view of the case’s documents”.
A march to Cairo’s high court was called for Friday, to coincide with Egyptian women’s day.
In December, Ibrahim won a case at the Cairo administrative courts that deemed virginity tests illegal. It was seen as a victory for the women involved in the case and encouraged others to come forward. Straight after that ruling, it was announced that Adel would face a military trial.
EIPR had initially filed a complaint to the public prosecutor, who referred it to the military justice system. There is no appeal process in military trials and no criminal liability can now be pursued in a civilian court.
Last June, a military general admitted in a meeting with Amnesty International that the virginity tests had taken place. Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (Scaf) member Major General Abdel-Fatah El-Sisi, head of the military intelligence department, said the tests had been conducted to protect the military from any allegations of rape, and that they would not happen again.
“The military justice system is very confined in Egypt,” Abdel-Aty said, “we have very little access to it and because the crime took place in a military prison, it falls under the jurisdiction of military law.”
Another Egyptian general also admitted the examinations had taken place and defended them in an interview with CNN. “The girls who were detained were not like your daughter or mine,” the general, who requested anonymity, told CNN. “These were girls who had camped out in tents with male protesters in Tahrir Square, and we found … molotov cocktails and [drugs].”
The women were detained on 9 March, nearly a month after the revolution that forced Hosni Mubarak from power, when soldiers cleared Tahrir Square after men in civilian clothes attacked protesters.
One of the female victims, Salwa Hosseini, 20, told Amnesty that she and the other women were forced to remove their clothes before being strip-searched by a female guard. Male soldiers looked into the room, and took pictures, she said.
EIPR is looking at pursuing the case at the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights, which is a semi-judicial body that has weighed a number of cases brought against the Egyptian government.
from Abdel-Rahman Hussein