A former Cairo university student appeared in court on charges of blackmailing and indecent assault of at least three women in a closely-monitored case recently sparked by social media on sex crimes.
The accused, attended a closed session trial on Saturday which was adjourned to 7 November. A lawyer from the defence team, Ahmed Ragheb, has said.
In September, the public prosecutor referred Zaki to the criminal court on charges of “sexually assaulting three girls under the age of 18 and threatening them along with a fourth girl with disclosing matters related to their honor”.
Zaki, who comes from a well-up family, could face a life sentence or death sentence if the prosecution proved rape with evidence.
The case has attracted a lot of attention from media, religious figures and women’s groups in a country where rights defenders say sexual harassment or abuse often goes unpunished.
Allegations against Zaki were posted in previous years on a private Facebook group run by AUC students but authorities reacted this year after the accusations surfaced on an Instagram account named @assaultpolice.
After Zaki’s arrest, the hundreds of women started to speak up on social media about abuse sparking at #MeToo Movement, exposing several men and also revealing a high-profile rape case that occurred in a Cairo hotel in 2014.
In August, the public prosecution arrested two suspects in that case and said seven others had fled the country and it was pursuing them.
On Sept. 25, the public prosecution said Lebanon had handed over three men accused in the case while two others had fled.
Responding to the growing public debate over women’s safety, parliament passed a law in August giving women the automatic right to anonymity in a bid to encourage more to report sexual assaults.
“Zaki’s case has been shocking as it put into debate a deeply-rooted tradition of accusing the victim not the harasser and justifying his actions,” said lawyer Reda Eldanbouki, executive director of the Women’s Center for Guidance and Legal Awareness.
Liberty Pazvakawambwa SADC News