Suspects in high-profile rape case fled Egypt in July: prosecutors

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Women chant slogans as they gather to protest against sexual harassment in front of the opera house in Cairo June 14, 2014, after a woman was sexually assaulted by a mob during the June 8 celebrations marking the new president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi's inauguration in Tahrir square. Egypt has asked YouTube to remove a video showing the naked woman with injuries being dragged through the square after being sexually assaulted during the celebrations. Authorities have arrested seven men aged between 15 and 49 for sexually harassing women on the square after the posting of the video, which caused an uproar in local and international media. REUTERS/Asmaa Waguih (EGYPT - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST CRIME LAW)
Women chant slogans as they gather to protest against sexual harassment in front of the opera house in Cairo June 14, 2014, after a woman was sexually assaulted by a mob during the June 8 celebrations marking the new president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s inauguration in Tahrir square. (Reuters)

Seven suspects in an alleged gang rape at a luxury Cairo hotel in 2014 that is at the center of an online campaign against sexual assault in Egypt have fled the country, the public prosecutor’s office said on Wednesday.

The men left Egypt between July 27 and July 29 after claims against them started to circulate on the internet, the prosecution said in a statement. It did not say where the men had traveled to but said it was taking international measures to pursue them.

Prosecutors are seeking the arrest in Egypt of two other suspects at large in the case.

Anger at inaction over the 2014 incident at Cairo’s Fairmont Hotel helped fuel a campaign against harassment and assault in which hundreds of women have shared testimonies online.

Prosecutors said they launched an investigation into the Fairmont Hotel case after legal complaints were lodged in early August. They said the suspects had been able to flee because the complaints had not been submitted earlier, and they urged victims to file complaints rather than post accusations online.

The Fairmont Hotel case was publicized on an Instagram account that had earlier exposed accusations against a university student from a wealthy background of raping and blackmailing multiple women.

Activists hope the campaigns will lead to wider prosecution of sex crimes, though they say social attitudes and the legal framework still require deep change.

Last week, Egypt’s parliament gave final approval to a law aimed at protecting the identity of sexual harassment and assault victims.

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