CAIRO (AP) — A court in Egypt convicted three teenage boys of fatally stabbing a boy who was defending a girl from sexual harassment, sentencing them on Sunday each to 15 years in prison. A fourth boy, who was involved in the attack, was sentenced to five years.
The juvenile court in the Nile Delta region found that the three suspects had repeatedly stabbed 17-year-old Mahmoud el-Banna in October. The court said the fourth suspect had acted as a driver, ferrying the assailants to the scene of the stabbing on a motorcycle. The verdict can be appealed before a higher court.
El-Banna’s killing stunned Egypt, where there has been a large outcry against the harassment of women, with local media extensively covering the case. Surveys indicate that a vast majority of Egyptian women feel insecure in the streets.
There have been calls on social media for the teens, all under the age of 18, to be executed. The court gave them the maximum sentence set by Egypt’s laws for juvenile suspects accused of murder.
Sunday’s session took place amid tight security in the city of Shebeen el-Kom, 75 kilometers (45 miles) north of the capital, Cairo.
During a previous session in October, police arrested at least two dozen people who protested outside the court. Egypt’s government has effectively banned all public protests since 2013.
Egypt’s Interior Ministry said at the time that all those arrested were members of the banned Muslim Brotherhood group and were inciting riots. Prosecutors have ordered they remain in custody pending an investigation into the allegations.
Sexual harassment, mostly ranging from catcalls to occasional pinching or grabbing, is rampant in Egypt.
In 2014, Egypt’s penal code was amended amid pressure from women’s groups to include a broad definition of sexual harassment and tougher penalties. However, most women remain reluctant to file complaints for fear of stigmatization.