By Mai Shams El-Din
CAIRO: A criminal military court on Sunday adjourned to March 11 the trial of a soldier accused of conducting forced virginity checks on female protesters, after listening to four witnesses.
Three rights activists and a victim of virginity tests testified in court and also gave video testimonies on Sunday in support of protester Samira Ibrahim, who initially filed the case.
Member of the No To Military Trials campaign Mona Seif, CNN and senior state-TV reporter Shahira Amin, and researcher at Human Rights Watch’s (HRW) North Africa Division Heba Morayef said they were told by three different members of the ruling military council on separate occasions that virginity tests were procedural inside military prisons, conducted to avoid future allegations of rape by female protesters.
Rasha Abdel Rahman, one of six women who were subject to virginity tests, also testified to support Ibrahim’s case. She recounted her ordeal in a recorded testimony published by the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) on Saturday.
EIPR lawyer Ahmed Hossam said on his Twitter account that the four witnesses were initially denied entry to court to hear their testimonies but were admitted to testify later.
“After listening to the testimonies, the court refused to hear Ibrahim’s lawyers’ argument and allowed defense lawyers to speak although today’s court session was to hear the testimonies only,” Hossam said.
“The court also rejected the demands of Ibrahim’s lawyers to get the medical reports, the bylaws of military prisons, the case’s investigations reports and records of the military prison’s female guards shifts,” he added.
In another video published online by (EIPR), three of the witnesses said they were personally told by members of the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) that virginity checks were conducted “procedurally.”
“In June 6, 2011, I was in a delegation of HRW to meet SCAF member General Mohamed El-Assar. When we asked him about virginity tests, he told us any woman or girl who enters prison in Egypt has to be subjected to a virginity test. He also told us that the army ordered not to conduct these tests in the future,” Morayef said.
Ibrahim filed two more cases regarding the virginity checks. She won a court verdict by the Administrative Court to ban virginity checks in military prisons. The other, against referring her to a military trial where she received a one-year suspended sentence, is still being investigated by the same court.
Seif said in the recorded testimony that she was part of a delegation from the No To Military Trials group to meet SCAF member General Hassan El-Rowainy and deputy head of military judiciary General Magd El-Din Barakat on June 13.
“General El-Rowainy explained to us that virginity tests are a routine procedure in the military prison that receives female inmates, so as not to be accused of [making the female prisoners] lose their virginity,” Seif said.
Last May, CNN published a report by Amin on its website quoting an unnamed SCAF member, who confirmed that virginity tests were conducted on female protesters inside military prison.
“On May 28, 2011, I conducted a phone interview with SCAF member and head of Armed Forces Moral Affairs office at that time, General Ismail Etman. He told me virginity tests were conducted procedurally so that the girls do not go out and say the army raped them,” Amin said.
The recorded testimonies also included an official voice testimony by Amnesty International recounting their meeting with SCAF member and head of Military Intelligence General Abdel Fattah El-Sesi, who also confirmed conducting virginity tests “to protect the army from possible rape allegations.”
El-Sesi promised these forced tests will not be conducted in the future.
Amnesty’s testimony was officially presented as a letter to the judge.