A military court acquitted on Sunday an army doctor who was charged with carrying out a forced virginity test on a female detainee during protests last year, a court source said.
Samira Ibrahim, an activist, had said she was forced to undergo a test in March. Her case and other similar ones stoked anger against the generals who took control of Egypt after Hosni Mubarak was driven from office on Feb. 11 by a popular uprising.
Ibrahim was one of seven women who said they had been forced to undergo humiliating tests to determine if they were virgins while detained by the military a year ago.
She was sentenced to a one-year suspended prison term for insulting authorities, joining an illegal assembly and breaking a curfew.
The source said Ahmed Adel, a doctor conscripted to the army, was acquitted of testing Ibrahim. Egypt’s state news agency also carried the report, adding that the court said it issued the ruling because of conflicting witness accounts.
Adel was accused of “public indecency” and “disobeying” military orders, after the initial charge of rape had been dropped.
The practice in March last year had sparked a national outcry and stained the ruling military’s reputation.
Outside the court, around 30 protesters gathered, shouting: “Down down military rule” and “We demanded dignity and change. Instead they stripped our girls in Tahrir”.
Huwayda Mostafa Salem, the lawyer for the defendant, told reporters: “The case was not strong in the first place. It was brought about due to media pressure.”
Getting the case into court was considered a victory for the female protesters who were subjected to the tests and had raised hopes of further trials of those accused of abuse.
“The ruling shows how politicized the military justice system is, and the lack of independence there,” said Heba Morayef, researcher at Human Rights Watch’s (HRW) North Africa division.
“The implications are far reaching and the hope that there will be any accountability for the military will be receding,” Morayef told AFP.
Ahead of the hearing, Amnesty International said the court’s decision would “show if Egypt’s military courts are prepared to offer any redress for female victims of violence by the army.”
“Ever since this unacceptable episode, which is nothing less than torture, women protesters have repeatedly faced beatings, torture and other ill-treatment at the hands of Egypt’s army and security forces,” the London-based watchdog’s deputy Middle East and North Africa director, Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, said.
Controversy over the virginity tests gathered pace after a general was quoted by CNN last year as saying tests were carried out to prove the women were not virgins when they were detained, so they could not say they were raped in detention.
An army official later denied the comments were made.
A civilian court issued a ruling in December ordering the army to end the practice and a military judicial official then said cases of reported forced virginity tests had been transferred to the Supreme Military Court.