Egyptian military tribunal acquits doctor on charge arising from virginity tests on detainees

Hamza Hendawi, The Associated Press
Associated Press

CAIRO - An Egyptian military tribunal on Sunday acquitted an army doctor of a charge of public obscenity filed by a protester who claimed she was forced to undergo a virginity test while in detention.

The court denied the humiliating tests even took place, despite a ruling by another court and admissions by generals quoted by a leading rights group.

The ruling further infuriated the country's revolutionary youth movements, who have said claims of the virginity tests were the first sign that the generals who took over from deposed President Hosni Mubarak 13 months ago were carrying on his repressive practices.

Less than four months before the military is scheduled to hand over power to a civilian administration, Sunday's verdict was likely to lend credibility to widespread suspicions that the generals were trying to remove any legal basis for their prosecution for crimes committed during their rule after they step down. Activists are calling for the generals to face charges for human rights abuses.

Samira Ibrahim, one of seven women who said they were forced to undergo examinations to determine if they were virgins while detained by the military a year ago, won a civilian court ruling last year that affirmed the tests were taking place at military jails and ordered they be halted.

Military prosecutors investigating her accusations brought only one individual, Dr. Ahmed Adel, to trial, and he was acquitted. The verdict cannot be appealed. The court denied that such tests were carried out.

"No one stained my honour," Ibrahim wrote on her Twitter account after the verdict. "The one that had her honour stained is Egypt. I will carry on until I restore Egypt's rights."

Egypt's official news agency said that Adel was acquitted because the testimonies of the witnesses for the plaintiff conflicted. But the court's insistence that no tests were ever conducted at all has raised doubts about the verdict.

"The court's denial of the tests being conducted went against written testimonies of several public figures who discussed the issue with several of the ruling generals," rights lawyer Adel Ramadan said.

Amnesty International said in June that Egypt's generals acknowledged carrying the tests on female protesters. It said Maj. Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, a member of the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, justified the tests as a way to protect the army from rape allegations. The rights group said al-Sisi vowed the military would not conduct such tests again.

The virginity test allegations first surfaced after a March 9 rally in Cairo's downtown Tahrir Square, epicenter of last year's uprising, that turned violent when men in plain clothes attacked protesters, and the army intervened to clear the square by force.

The military has been in power since Mubarak stepped down last year in the face of a popular uprising. The Mubarak-era generals who succeeded their former patron face accusations by rights activists of killing protesters, torturing detainees and trying at least 10,000 civilians in military tribunals.

They are also accused of bungling the transition and seeking to preserve their decades-old immunity from civilian oversight.