CAIRO — An Egyptian court on Sunday convicted a former student at an elite university of attempted rape and drug possession, sentencing him to eight years imprisonment atop a previous punishment for other sexual misconduct convictions.
It was the second verdict against disgraced former American University in Cairo student Ahmed Bassam Zaki, in a case that has rattled Egypt’s conservative society and fueled the #MeToo movement in the Arab world’s most populous country.
The Cairo criminal court sentenced Zaki to seven years’ prison time for the attempted rape against three women, and a year for possession of hashish, according to victims’ lawyer Ahmed Ragheb.
The women were minors at the time of the alleged crimes, according to court documents. Sunday’s verdict can be appealed to a higher court.
In December, Zaki was convicted of blackmailing and sexually harassing two other women, receiving three years in prison.
The former student was arrested in July after allegations against him surfaced on social media, resulting in a firestorm of criticism. The #MeToo movement aims to hold accountable those involved in sexual misconduct and those who cover it up.
Several attempts at the time by The Associated Press to contact Zaki’s family and his lawyer were unsuccessful.
According to accusations posted on social media, Zaki would mine the pool of mutual friends on Facebook, online groups or school clubs, for females to target.
He would start with flattery, then pressure the women and girls to share intimate photos that he later used to blackmail them with if they did not have sex with him, according to the accusations. In some instances he threatened to send compromising pictures to family members.
Zaki hails from a wealthy family and studied at the American International School, one of Egypt’s most expensive private high schools, and the American University in Cairo. AUC officials said he left the university in 2018.
Zaki’s case, activists say, shows that misogyny cuts across Egypt’s stark class lines. Many in Egypt have previously portrayed sexual harassment as a problem of poor urban youth.
Sexual assault and harassment are deep-seated problems in Egypt, where victims must also fight the undercurrent of a conservative culture that typically ties female chastity to a family’s reputation. In courts, the burden of proof lies heavily on the victims of such crimes.