Wael Abbas questioned over harassment video

Egyptian blogger Wael Abbas has been questioned by the authorities about a video clip he posted on his website which allegedly depicts a plainclothes police officer forcing a woman to strip naked.
A still shot from the video shows the alleged policeman slapping the woman. R.R.

BEIRUT/CAIRO, Feb. 21, 2008 (MENASSAT) – Award-winning Egyptian blogger Wael Abbas appeared on Sunday before the general prosecutor in Cairo as a witness in a new case of a leaked video that allegedly depicts a plainclothes police officer forcing a woman to strip naked.

The clip was sent to Abbas over the Eid holiday in December 2007 from an unknown source who calls himself Mahmoud, who urged Abbas to circulate the video and "leave it in the hands of honorable readers, journalists, and lawyers to investigate the matter."

Abbas chose to not upload the full clip on his web log Misr digital (Egyptian awareness) since it depicts nudity. Instead, he posted a still image of the video on his site with the accompanying audio sound.

In a phone interview with MENASSAT, Abbas said that he was questioned for six hours by the prosecution on Sunday about the nature of the video.

"They asked me questions about the video and the people in it," Abbas said. "They asked me to give them a copy of the video and I did that."

Abbas was accompanied at the hearing by two lawyers, including Gamal Eid from the Cairo-based NGO, the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (HRInfo).

Due to the controversial nature of the clip, the video created a stir when it was first made publicly available. 

The video features a man verbally abusing a sobbing woman and then forcing her to take her top off. He grabs her half naked body and slaps her twice. 

While the true identities of the persons in the video remain unknown, reports claim it is possible that the victim is a prostitute and the perpetrator a plainclothes police officer.

However, the background environment in the video indicates suggests that the incident took place in a private apartment and not a police station. 

Some sources stress that the perpetrator is wearing a gun holster around his waist, which should indicate that the man is likely a police officer.

Others claim the tape might be a scam.

"They asked me during the interrogation if the person in the video is a police officer. I said no and that I don’t know who it is," Abbas said.

Mahmoud, the mysterious man who sent the video to Abbas per email, said that the video had previously circulated on mobile phones.

In his note to Abbas, Mahmoud said that while the circumstances around the tape cannot be determined, the man in the video is surely committing a crime against the woman.

Abbas is one of the most prominent bloggers in the Arab world and has exposed sensitive issues such as alleged torture, police abuse, and sexual harassment on his web log. 

Last year, Abbas obtained a video clip showing two police officers assaulting and sodomizing microbus driver Emad-Al Kabir with an iron stick at a Cairo police station. The officers had supposedly filmed the incident with one of their mobile phones and then circulated it. The footage was leaked to bloggers and human rights activists.

The case of Emad al-Kabir created uproar among Egyptian civil society and attracted much unwanted attention to the Egyptian authorities from international media and rights groups. 

The two officers were sentenced in a rare conviction to several years in prison for their crime in November last year. Abbas won an international journalism award for his work and was named Person of the Year in the Middle East by news network CNN.

"I hope this case will turn out well," Abbas concluded.