CAIRO: A policeman has been sentenced to 25 years imprisonment in absentia by the New Cairo Criminal Court after being convicted of sexually assaulting a woman near a police checkpoint.
The convicted policeman Wael Mohamed Ismail, a member of the security patrol force, is currently at large and did not attend the court hearing.
Conclusive forensic evidence against Ismail prevented his lawyer from presenting any defense to charges that his client kidnapped and sexually assaulted the woman.
The victim is a Sudanese national whose claim for refugee status has been rejected by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees in Cairo on claims that her marriage to a legally recognized refugee wasn’t registered in court.
During the court hearing, she was referred to only as “F after her lawyer requested that her identity be protected.
The assault had taken place on Jan. 11, 2007 at 11 pm while F, a mother of three, was on her way home in a taxi after attending a party at a friend’s house.
The taxi was stopped at a police checkpoint in Dar El Salam, Cairo, where F was asked for personal identification and residency papers.
When F told the police officer that her identity papers were with her husband she was told to sit in a police patrol car which would take her to a police station in order to verify her identity.
She was in fact taken to the Fustat Gardens where Ismail – while smoking cannabis – informed her that he was going to have sex with her. In an attempt to discourage him, F told him that she was menstruating.
She was forced to perform oral sex on him at gunpoint, before he made her perform oral sex on his deputy, again at gunpoint.
Afterwards, F pretended to help Ismail to clean himself in order to collect the semen stained tissue which she kept and presented as evidence.
F sought the aid of the Association for Human Rights Legal Aid (AHRLA) and AHRLA lawyer Mohamed Bayoumy presented the case to the Prosecutor General’s office on Jan. 28, 2007.
F was able to provide the prosecutor with the name of the officer who assaulted her, the semen-stained tissue, the license plate of the patrol car and the exact time and place of the assault, enabling the prosecutor to identify, conclusively, the police officers on duty that night.
During the period that AHRLA was preparing the case police officers went to F’s home and told her children – who are three, five and seven years old – to inform their mother that she was “urgently needed and should call them.
When the Prosecutor General brought charges against Ismail, the police officer’s mother telephoned F and asked her to drop the case, offering her money in return for doing so.
The deputy officer, F’s lawyer told Daily News Egypt, had died in a car accident before the case was heard in court, so there were no charges filed against him.
Ismail’s lawyer had attempted to negotiate an out of court settlement, which was rejected by F.
On Feb. 18, 2008 F identified the men who assaulted her. During this meeting the police deputy claimed that he and F were having an affair and that when he had tried to end the relationship she had refused, making it necessary for him to solicit the intervention of his superior officer.
Bayoumy, F’s lawyer, cast doubt on these allegations, pointing out to the Prosecutor General the huge authority possessed by members of the Egyptian police and the unlikelihood that he would have to enlist the help of his superior to end such a relationship.
During this session Bayoumy says that several thugs were milling around the prosecutor’s office in an attempt to intimidate F and her lawyer, prompting him to file a restraining order and making it necessary for the prosecutor to call the Azbakeyya police station, which sent officers to escort F and Bayoumy across the street and into a taxi.
While local and international human rights groups have repeatedly condemned the routine abuse by the Egyptian police of individuals in their custody, police intimidation and the public prosecution office’s collusion, make prosecution for such violations extremely rare.
It is even more unusual for such a heavy sentence to be handed down.
“Ismail’s lawyer simply had no defense to the serious charges against him, Bayoumy told Daily News Egypt.
“The forensic medical report was incontrovertible evidence of his guilt for crimes which carry heavy punishment. Kidnapping carries a maximum prison term of 15 years while sexual assault is punishable with 15 years imprisonment, he continued.
The court’s verdict cannot be implemented until Ismail is found.
The fact that he was tried in absentia on a serious criminal charge (rather than a misdemeanour) means that if Ismail is located and arrested this court sentence will be cancelled and the case will be re-tried.
“Ismail’s superiors within the Interior Ministry know where he lives. If this sentence is not carried out we will follow up on it, Bayoumy told Daily News Egypt.