Egypt renews detention of Uber driver accused of attempting to kidnap woman

Egypt renews detention of Uber driver accused of attempting to kidnap woman
Around 7.8 million Egyptian women experience a form of gender-based violence every year, according to a UN survey released in 2015.
3 min read
Egypt - Cairo
28 February, 2024
The Egyptian Uber driver who allegedly attempted to kidnap a woman remains in custody, pending further investigations. [Getty]

An Egyptian investigating judge renewed, on Tuesday evening, the detention of an Uber driver for 15 days, pending further investigations into an abduction attempt of a 24-year-old woman.

The driver, whose name has not been disclosed yet, has also been charged with attempted manslaughter after he had reportedly tried to kidnap Habiba El-Shamaa earlier last week, a case that has sent shockwaves across Egypt, according to local news reports.

On Wednesday, 21 February, Shamaa jumped from a fast-moving car on a dangerous highway on the outskirts of Cairo to reportedly escape a horrific fate.

"The Uber driver tried to kidnap me," she told a witness who rushed to her to help her after she had severely fallen and hit a cement barrier.

"These were her only words as she vomited…had seizures… and then lost consciousness," the witness told the victim's friends when he picked up her mobile phone.

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Shamaa has sustained critical injuries, including bone fractures, internal bleeding, and brain haemorrhage, and has been in a coma ever since.

"The prosecution is not expected to refer the alleged perpetrator to trial before hearing her testimony," lawyer Mona Radwan told The New Arab.

The driver claimed during interrogation that he sprayed perfume inside the vehicle to remove smoke odour, which Shamaa may have mistaken for an anaesthetic.

"The victim is known for being well-educated and professionally accomplished. She was unlikely to take such a risk of jumping out of a car on the highway unless she experienced a real threat," Radwan argued.

"If we go by the driver's narrative, then she should have realised that spraying an anaesthetic inside the car would knock him out too while driving," she said.

The crime of kidnapping a woman or a minor is punishable by Egyptian law by a minimum of 10 years in prison and could reach execution in case of rape.

"Right now, we all wait for Shamaa to regain consciousness and tell her side of the story before the prosecution. The attempted manslaughter he has so far been charged with could only end up in a suspended sentence for being a misdemeanour," Zaki added.  

Meanwhile, a prominent local attorney filed a complaint this week before the prosecutor general's office, holding the local branch of the American company that operates Uber accountable for endangering the safety of riders.

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Lawyer Sabra Al-Qasemi accused the ride-hailing app operator of failing to take the necessary measures to do a background check on drivers.

The Ministry of Interior said in an official statement a few days after the incident that the driver had a previous criminal record without further elaborating.

The driver's lawyer, however, told local media that his client had been sentenced to prison in absentia years ago over drug use but has been later acquitted. 

In recent years, women across Egypt have spoken out on social media about the subject as part of the #MeToo movement, as many went public and reported such atrocities. 

Around 7.8 million Egyptian women experience some form of gender-based violence every year, according to a UN survey released in 2015.