By Heba Fahmy
CAIRO: Hundreds of protesters rallied Friday in front of the High Court in support of Samira Ibrahim, one of the activists who were subjected to the virginity tests while in detentions last year, marking Egyptian Women’s Day.
Egypt’s military court acquitted Sunday conscript doctor Ahmed Adel, who was accused of conducting forced virginity tests on female protesters detained after a raid on a Tahrir sit-in on March 9, 2011.
Adel was accused of “public indecency” and “disobeying military orders,” after the initial charge of sexual assault had been dropped.
Ibrahim who filed the landmark case, participated in the protest, saying that the court’s verdict was a violation to all Egyptians and not just her.
“I will resort to the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights to retrieve my rights since the Egyptian judiciary let me down,” she told Daily News Egypt.
“This violation against me happened in front of the whole world and went unpunished,” she added.
“In this military trial, the defendant and judge are one and the same because they are both affiliated with the military,” Nagwa Abbas Ahmed, member of the Socialist Popular Alliance Party, said.
“There was no way Samira would’ve received a fair verdict,” she said, adding that the military judge gets his orders from his superiors.
Ibrahim was among at least 17 female protesters arrested by military police when a Tahrir sit-in was violently dispersed on March 9, 2011, and said she and six other female protesters were subjected to forced virginity tests in military prison.
All of them were referred to military trials and each received a one-year suspended sentence.
Tarek El-Khouly spokesperson for the April 6 Democratic Front Movement, said that the judiciary was working to improve the ruling military council’s image rather than achieving justice.
Several witnesses, mainly rights activists, had told the court that they got several confirmations from high ranking military officers, including members of the ruling military council, that the “virginity tests” were conducted in accordance with procedure.
The Administrative Court ordered the practice be stopped after Ibrahim filed a case at the State Council.
The protesters chanted, “Hold your head up high…you are more honorable than the one who violated you.”
They also slammed the Supreme Council of Armed Forces chanting, “Down with the military rule.”
A few blocks away from the Supreme Court, dozens of protesters gathered in front of the Journalists’ Syndicate calling for the independence of the judiciary.
“The Egyptian people are in need of an independent judiciary,” said Judge Zakaria Abdel Aziz of the Cairo Appeals Court and former head of the Judges’ Club commenting on lifting the travel ban on the foreign defendants in the NGOs case.
Earlier this month, 15 foreigners including Americans, accused of operating NGOs without a license and receiving illicit foreign funds, were flown out of Egypt after the travel ban was suddenly lifted.
The decision outraged Egyptians who believed the politically-motivated decision violated the independence of Egypt’s Judiciary.
“The decision to lift the travel ban was a flagrant intervention in Egypt’s judiciary and we refuse to accept that,” said Karima El-Hifnawy, secretary general of the Egyptian Social Democratic Party and leading member of the Kefaya Movement for Change.
Some of the protesters marched from the Journalists’ Syndicate to the Supreme Court to support Ibrahim’s case against SCAF. Ibrahim had filed three cases, one at the State Council and two at the military court.
“Egyptian women called for the freedom and independence of Egypt in 1919 and we will continue to call for women’s rights which are still being violated, following the January uprising ” El-Hifnawy added.
On March 16, 1919, pioneer Egyptian feminist Hoda Shaarawi helped organize the largest women’s demonstration against the British occupation.
“We can’t celebrate Egyptian Women’s Day when their rights are being violated,” Amr Ahmed, member of the Egyptian Women’s Union, told Daily News Egypt.
Justice Zakaria Abdel Aziz speaks to the media at a rally calling for the independence of the judiciary, Friday, March 16. (Daily News Egypt photo/Hassan Ibrahim)