The Cairo Economic Court of Appeal acquitted Ahmed Bassam Zaki, on Monday, 13 September, of ‘misusing’ social media, according to local media reports.
Zaki was sentenced to three years in prison in December 2020 by the Economic Court for charges of misusing social media, and eight years in prison by the Cairo Criminal Court on charges of sexually assaulting and blackmailing three girls in April 2021.
In early 2020, Egypt’s Public Prosecution charged Zaki with sexual assault, harassment and blackmail. According to authorities, Zaki sexually abused and extorted three underaged girls, and pressured them and threatened to leak intimate and private details about them.
Between 2016 and 2020, Zaki allegedly used social media platforms and instant messaging applications to sexually assault women. Accusations against Zaki first surfaced July 2020, with the circulation of testimonies from over 50 women and girls claiming that the defendant has sexually abused them. The testimonies, which were all published by Instagram initiative Assault Police, included detailed accounts of rape, statutory rape, child molestation, sexual and physical violence, blackmail and extortion, as well as sexual harassment and assault.
Egypt passed a law in August 2020, which gives victims the right to anonymity to protect the identity of the victims – encouraging more women to report sexual assault so legal action can be taken.
Zaki’s case catalyzed a #MeToo movement in Egypt, with a network of Eyptian women speaking out against men for sexual harassment cases on social media platforms. Since 2020, a number of Egyptian women have come forward, pursuing legal action against their abusers.
The approval of Zaki’s appeal has sparked a flurry of fear for Egypt’s women, as his three year- sentence overturn can undermine the #MeToo movement that has been ongoing for two years.