Egypt court jails 7 for life over Tahrir sexual assaults

CAIRO - An Egyptian court on Wednesday sentenced seven men to life in prison over sexual assaults at Cairo's Tahrir Square, including during celebrations marking Abdel Fattah al-Sisi's presidential election victory last month.

The court also sentenced two other defendants to 20 years in prison each on the same charges.

Since the uprising that toppled long-time president Hosni Mubarak in 2011, the problem of sexual harassment has grown enormously in Egypt, with women regularly attacked at rallies by mobs of men in and around the iconic square, the epicentre of protests.

The attacks which landed the men behind bars took place on June 3 and 8 as revellers marked Sisi's election victory and inauguration, as well as on January 25, 2013, as Egypt marked the second anniversary of the 2011 revolt.

The defendants were accused of kidnapping, raping, sexually attacking, attempting to murder and torturing a number of women during the rallies.

The court ordered the nine defendants to be placed under police surveillance for a period of five years once they have served their time in prison. Life sentences in Egypt are for 25 years.

Egyptian authorities have pledged to tackle the epidemic of sexual violence in the country after graphic video footage of a woman being sexually assaulted at Tahrir square went viral on YouTube in early June, sparking unprecedented outrage.

The footage, apparently filmed using a mobile phone, shows a mob of men surrounding a young woman, who was stripped and badly bruised in the assault.