Egypt refers Uber driver to trial over allegedly attacking woman

The recent horrific incidents have sent shockwaves across Egypt, prompting MPs, social media activists and women’s rights advocates to call for boycotting Uber. [Getty]

Egypt’s prosecutor-general referred an Uber driver to a criminal trial, less than a month after the suspect had allegedly kidnapped a woman as he drove to a remote area on the outskirts of Cairo, ranked as “the world’s most dangerous megacity for women”.

“The suspect is also facing the charges of [allegedly] assaulting the victim sexually and threatening her using cool steel before he had inflicted injuries on her when she fought back,” said an official statement released by the prosecutor general’s office on Tuesday evening.

According to the prosecution, the driver eventually fled the scene after the victim jumped outside the car as two men, who happened to pass by the area, ran to her rescue, covering her injured body and torn clothes with a blanket until she was moved to a nearby hospital.

“Investigations previously revealed that the driver had cancelled the trip, ordered via the account of the victim’s sister shortly after taking off, and stopped the vehicle before allegedly attacking the victim,” the statement read.  

The crime of kidnapping a female, whether cunningly or forcibly, is penalised by up to 25 years in prison, as per the Egyptian penal code. If the act is accompanied by sexual assault, it could result in execution.    

But it was not until 2008 when a Cairo court sentenced a man to three years in prison in the first-ever verdict against sexual harassment of a woman in Egypt’s judicial history.

Meanwhile, the legal representative of Uber Egypt claimed that the company had blocked the suspect’s account after the company had received complaints by female passengers of sexual harassment, but he managed to create a new one using fake identification papers.

The representative further presented before the prosecutor feed taken by satellites tracking the movement of the suspect’s car till he reached the crime scene.  

In April this year, a Cairo criminal court sentenced an Uber driver to 15 years in prison with hard labour on the very first day of the trial, after he had been found guilty of attempting to abduct 24-year-old Habiba El-Shamaa, who later died following a three-week coma.

The driver was also convicted of possessing cannabis, driving under the influence of narcotics after he tested positive for drugs following his arrest, and forging official identification papers to create an Uber account. 

The recent horrific incidents have sent shockwaves across Egypt, prompting parliamentarians, social media activists and women’s rights advocates to call for boycotting the ride-hailing app and hold the company responsible for falling short in maintaining the safety of customers.

But days after the most recent incident, Ahmed Aly, Uber’s Head of Public Policy, North Africa and the Middle East, said during a heated parliamentary session that the company failed to follow recommendations made earlier for it had not yet been allowed access to the government’s official databases to vet drivers.

In recent years, women across Egypt have spoken out on social media about the subject as part of the #MeToo movement, as many went public and reported such atrocities. 

Statistically, around 7.8 million Egyptian women undergo a form of gender-based violence every year, according to a UN survey released in 2015.

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