Egypt refers Uber driver to criminal trial after death of woman passenger

Egypt refers Uber driver to criminal trial after death of woman passenger
The alleged kidnap attempt of Habiba El-Shamaa has prompted other women in Egypt to expose similar incidents taking place while riding with rideshare apps.
3 min read
Egypt - Cairo
25 March, 2024
Uber Egypt claimed the driver in question created his account using forged documents [Getty]

Egypt’s prosecutor-general referred an Uber driver on Monday to the criminal court in a case that has sent shockwaves across the country, after the man allegedly attempted to abduct a woman who later died after leaving the vehicle mid-journey.

The driver, whose name has not been disclosed, is facing charges of attempting to kidnap 24-year-old Habiaba El-Shamaa, possessing cannabis, and driving under the influence of narcotics after he had tested positive for drugs, local news outlets reported, citing an official statement released this morning by the prosecutor general’s office.

Shaimaa was in a coma for three weeks before she died in a case that highlighted the safety of women in Egypt and even led to the intervention of President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi.

Following the death of Shamaa, dubbed 'El-Shorouk Girl' in reference to the location where the incident took place, lawyer Mohamed Amin, representing the victim’s family, called on the prosecution "to legally modify the previous charge of attempted manslaughter to premeditated murder".

On 21 February, Shamaa sustained critical injuries, including bone fractures, internal bleeding, and brain hemorrhage after she had jumped out of a fast-moving car on a highway near Shourouk City, on the outskirts of Cairo.

"The Uber driver tried to kidnap me," she told a witness who rushed to help her after she hit a cement barrier on her exit from the vehicle.

She then vomited, had several episodes of seizures, and lost consciousness as the driver fled the scene and never stopped to assist the victim, according to the statements given by the same witness to authorities.

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The driver alleged during interrogation that he sprayed perfume inside the vehicle to remove the smell of smoke, which he claims Shamaa may have mistaken for an anesthetic.

He denied all accusations and claimed he was surprised when Shamaa suddenly jumped out of his moving vehicle.

Lawyer Amin has recently filed a complaint against Uber before the Ministry of Transport and called for revoking the license of the car-sharing app as the company’s legal representative denied accountability, pinning the incident on the driver.

"The company’s lawyer claimed that the driver was previously blocked before by Uber and denied access to the application after a female rider had alleged he had physically harassed her," the statement read.

"But he resumed working for Uber after he had created a new account based on different identification papers," the statement read, adding that he has also been accused of forgery.

The New Arab could not reach Uber Egypt for comment at the time of publication.

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The tragic incident prompted other victims to speak of similar incidents with ride-hailing apps in Egypt as women’s rights advocates, lawyers, and MPs questioned the safety measures taken by such companies for women passengers.

"Uber cannot evade responsibility for the company had allegedly committed negligence, violating Egyptian laws and regulations, especially after the suspect tested positive for narcotics," lawyer Mona Radwan told The New Arab

"There are different ways to vet a driver’s request to join Uber that should have been followed by the company. Its failure to abide by such rules has cost Shamaa her life."

Article 290 of the Egyptian penal code dictates the act of kidnapping a female, whether cunningly or forcibly, is punishable by a life sentence. If the act is accompanied by sexual assault, it could result in execution.    

In recent years, women across Egypt have spoken out on social media about the subject as part of the #MeToo movement.

Statistically, around 7.8 million Egyptian women undergo a form of gender-based violence every year, according to a UN survey released in 2015.