An Egyptian military court has acquitted an army doctor accused of conducting forced “virginity tests” on female protesters last year, in a case that had sparked a national outcry.
Ahmed Adel was cleared of conducting the test on Samira Ibrahim, who brought the case against him, after the judge found the witness statements to be “contradictory”, said the official MENA news agency.
The ruling comes “from what has been proven in documents and based on my conscience”, the judge said according to MENA, adding that he had “not been subjected to any pressures.”
Adel was accused of “public indecency” and of “disobeying military orders”, after the initial charge of rape had been dropped.
“It’s a joke, a theatre,” an outraged Samira Ibrahim said after the ruling. “The fact that the case was in a military court is a disaster,” she said.
But Huwayda Mostafa Salem, the lawyer for the defendant, said outside the court: “The case was not strong in the first place. It was brought about due to media pressure.”
Getting the case into court was considered a victory for the protesters who were subjected to the tests and had raised hopes of further trials of those accused of abuse.
“The ruling shows how politicised the military justice system is, and the lack of independence there,” Heba Morayef, researcher at Human Rights Watch’s North Africa division said.
“The implications are far reaching and the hope that there will be any accountability for the military will be receding,” she said.
The case arose from two complaints filed by Ibrahim, who won a case against the military in December which saw the court order the army to stop forced virginity tests on female detainees.
Ahead of the hearing, Amnesty International said the court’s decision would “show if Egypt’s military courts are prepared to offer any redress for female victims of violence by the army.”
“Ever since this unacceptable episode, which is nothing less than torture, women protesters have repeatedly faced beatings, torture and other ill-treatment at the hands of Egypt’s army and security forces,” said the watchdog’s deputy Middle East and North Africa director, Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui.
“The ‘virginity tests’ trial is a rare opportunity for Egypt’s military to signal that torture by the army does not go unpunished.”
On Mar 9, 2011, army officers violently cleared Cairo’s Tahrir Square and held at least 18 women in detention. Women said they were beaten, given electric shocks, subjected to strip searches, forced to submit to “virginity tests” and threatened with prostitution charges.
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