Egyptian writer Mohamed Hashem arrested over sexual assault allegations
Hashem, the award-winning manager of the Dar Merit publishing house in Cairo, has long been hailed as an advocate for freedom of expression and praised for his resistance to state censorship.
Last week, poet Alaa Hasanin wrote a Facebook post alleging Hashem attacked her in 2019 as she was picking up books from Dar Merit.
Hasanin said Hashem offered her a drink and lured her into a separate room so as not to awaken his sleeping daughter.
Hasanin said in a Facebook post that she thought they would have a brief conversation but that Hashem forcibly kissed her and inappropriately touched her.
"I froze out of surprise, this was never expected, [...] he is an old man, and I am younger than his daughter who is sleeping in the next room," wrote Hasanin.
Hasanin said she tried to push him off, but Hashem told her to "wait" and then continued.
Hasanin said that other women had come forward and told her of similar encounters with Hashem.
An Arabic-language hashtag that translates to "Mohamed Hashem is a harasser" soon emerged on Facebook and Twitter.
Hasanin shared screenshots of messages she received from more alleged victims detailing their own stories of Hashem acting inappropriately towards them.
Hasanin filed a complaint with Egyptian authorities, which led to Hashem's arrest. He was released on a 5,000 Egyptian pound bail on Sunday.
The writer denied the charges in court, stating he was not in Cairo on the dates mentioned in Hasanin's complaint.
Hashem said he attended his sister's funeral in the city of Tanta and then accompanied his daughter to a hospital two days later, where she gave birth to her first child.
Hashem's lawyer presented copies of articles and poems written by Hasanin for Dar Merit's magazine on dates after the alleged incident had taken place.
"It is unreasonable for the complainant to return to being published [by Dar Merit] after she was harassed," Hashem's lawyer told the court.
The allegation has surfaced as Egypt faces a reckoning with its own #MeToo movement.
This month, 22-year-old Egyptian student Ahmed Bassam Zaki was arrested after dozens of women accused him of rape, physical assault, and blackmail.
In an unprecedented move towards accountability, victims' graphic testimonies were gathered and publicised on social media, leading to a high-profile debate on sexual violence in Egypt.
While sexual harassment and assault are common in Egypt, victims face many obstacles obstructing them from speaking out, including pressure from family members or fears of victim-blaming.
Following the anonymous testimonies in Zaki's case, Egypt's cabinet on Saturday approved a bill that will grant anonymity to victims of sexual abuse.