Egypt Courtroom Sentences Ex-Scholar to three Years in #MeToo Case

CAIRO (AP) – An Egyptian court on Tuesday convicted a former student at an elite university for sexual misconduct and sentenced him to three years in prison. This was the first conviction of a case that fueled the #MeToo movement in the world’s most populous country.

The Cairo Commercial Court convicted Ahmed Bassam Zaki, a former student of the American University in Cairo, of extortion and sexual harassment of two women.

Mr. Zaki will be tried separately in court for the rape and attempted rape of three other women who were minors at the time of the alleged crimes, according to court documents. He is also charged with drug possession.

Tuesday’s judgment can be challenged in a higher court.

Mr. Zaki was arrested in July after allegations against him emerged on social media, sparking a fire storm of criticism. The #MeToo movement aims to hold those involved in sexual misconduct accountable and those who cover it up.

Several attempts to contact Mr. Zaki’s family and attorney were unsuccessful at the time.

According to allegations posted on social media, Mr. Zaki would tear down a pool of mutual friends on Facebook, online groups or school clubs that women could target.

He would start with flattery and then pressure the women and girls to share intimate photos that he would later use to blackmail them if, according to the allegations, they did not have sex with him. In some cases, he threatened to send compromising pictures to family members.

Mr. Zaki comes from a wealthy family and studied at the American International School, one of the most expensive private schools in Egypt, and at the American University in Cairo. AUC officials said he left university in 2018.

The case of Mr Zaki, activists say, shows that misogyny crosses Egypt’s strict class lines. Many in Egypt previously portrayed sexual harassment as a problem for poor urban youth.

Sexual assault and harassment are profound problems in Egypt, where victims also have to fight the undercurrent of a conservative culture that typically associates female chastity with the reputation of a family. In courts of law, the burden of proof rests heavily on the victims of such crimes.

The allegations against the former student were collected from the Instagram account @assaultpolice. Since then, the report has played a pivotal role in exposing an alleged rape that has rocked Egyptian society in recent weeks.

Sexual misconduct allegations have also surfaced against several legal activists and prominent journalists, but these allegations have not found their way in court.

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