CAIRO (AP) – 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 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 honor,” Ibrahim wrote on her Twitter account after the verdict. “The one that had her honor stained is Egypt. I will carry on until I restore Egypt’s rights.”
Maj. Gen. Adel al-Mursi, head of the military prosecution, defended the verdict in a statement carried by Egypt’s official news agency. He said the judge ruled “according to his conscience and in view of the case’s documents.” He said witnesses for the plaintiff gave conflicting testimony, and that Adel was acquitted also because the testimonies of two prison guards, the jail’s security officer and the head of its clinic insisted that no such test was carried out.
“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.
The virginity tests created the first tension between the generals and women, tens of thousands of whom took part in the uprising against Mubarak. Late last year, army troops were caught on camera beating female protesters with sticks and stomping on them while they lay helpless on the ground.
One woman was stripped half naked by the troops as they beat her. The video that captured the incident caused an uproar in this conservative, mainly Muslim nation of 85 million people.
Amnesty International said in June that Egypt’s generals acknowledged carrying out 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. Ibrahim was detained along with scores of men and women, and a military tribunal later sentenced her to a suspended 12-month prison term.
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.