Twelve men will face trial on Wednesday for complicity in incidents of mass sexual assault reported in Tahrir Square on 25 January, 3 June and 8 June 2014.
Supporters of newly-elected President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi held demonstrations in Tahrir Square on the three aforementioned days to celebrate the third anniversary of the January 2011 revolution, Al-Sisi’s election as president and his inauguration, respectively.
The defendants, involved in five different court cases, will face trial in the South Cairo Criminal Court, reported state-run news agency MENA. They are charged with: kidnapping, indecent assault, physical torture, stealth, attempted rape and attempted murder. If the defendants are found guilty, they may be sentenced to life in prison.
Nationwide anger spiralled against reported cases of sexual assault in Tahrir Square after a video documenting one case went viral two weeks ago. The video shows a woman being subjected to mass assault after she is stripped naked, with security personnel trying to drive the assailants away.
The prosecutor general’s office said it interrogated three suspects for over 10 days for sexually assaulting a 42 year-old woman and her daughter in Tahrir Square on 3 June.
Last week, the prosecutor general referred 13 sexual assault suspects to the urgent criminal court.
The prosecution’s investigation into the assault cases revealed that “criminal groups” sexually assaulted six women on 8 June. Civil society organisations reported at least nine cases of sexual assault, while the Forensics Authority medically examined at least seven women subjected to “indecent assault” on 10 June.
Wednesday’s scheduled trial comes amid a string of legal measures taken in regards to sexual harassment and assault.
A misdemeanour court issued a swift verdict on Saturday, handing a one year labour sentence and an EGP 3,000 fine to a man captured last Wednesday while taking a photo of a sleeping woman on a public bus.
On Wednesday, another misdemeanour court sentenced two men charged with sexual harassment to six months labour.
The Heliopolis Misdemeanour Court is also trying two men accused of assaulting a policeman and harassing two women during celebrations of Al-Sisi’s inauguration on 8 June.
Mostafa Mahmoud, lawyer at women’s rights group Nazra for Feminist Studies, earlier said he believes the state’s attention to sexual harassment and assault cases will wane along with the media’s focus on such cases.
Mahmoud said that cases of mass sexual assault, similar to those reported from Tahrir Square during Al-Sisi’s inauguration, were reported during protests in the iconic square in November 2012. The aforementioned cases, however, are yet to be referred to court.
Shortly before ceding power, former President Adly Mansour issued a law amending articles in the Penal Code establishing harsher punishment for sexual harassment.
A report issued by the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women in April 2013 revealed an overwhelming majority of Egyptian women have experienced sexual harassment; as many as 99.3% of women have reported incidents of sexual harassment, while 96.5% had been sexually assaulted.