CAIRO: Minya Criminal Court sentenced Ragab, 19, to death on Wednesday for raping and killing six-year-old Huda in a village in Minya.
The girl’s naked body was found in March, strangled with her own flannel shirt in an abandoned house with an incised wound to her scalp and evidence of sexual abuse.
The court referred the case to Egypt’s Grand Mufti Shawqi Allam, the highest Islamic figure in the country, to weigh in with his opinion before the sentence is confirmed. Death sentences are often referred to the Mufti. Although largely respected and considered, the Mufti’s opinion is not binding.
According to the investigations, Huda was going to her Quran tutoring lesson when Ragab told her that a friend wanted to see her. He then took her to the abandoned house. The forensic report revealed that Huda’s hymen remained intact, but semen was found on her body, Masrawy reported.
Investigators speculated that when Huda tried to scream, Ragab strangled her then hit her with a brick.
The court appointed a lawyer to defend the perpetrator because all local lawyers refused to represent him, Youm7 reported.
If the death sentence is confirmed, it will be appealed, which is the procedure for capital punishment.
The potential death penalty comes after rampant disappointment in February prison terms handed to two teenage boys who sexually assaulted a five-year-old girl named Zeina in November and threw her off a rooftop. It was a high-profile case that received much attention and sympathy.
The boys, 16 and 17, were sentenced to 15 and 20 years of jail time respectively, the highest punishment allowed for those under 18 even if they are charged with murder, as in the case of Zeina.
Zeina’s case triggered public calls to reduce the age to be considered an adult in Egypt.
The South Cairo Criminal Court also sentenced on Wednesday seven men to life in prison over charges of sexual assault in Tahrir Square and two others to 20 years in prison over the same charges.
The nine defendants, tried in four separate cases, faced charges of sexual harassment, kidnapping, stealing, and indecent assaults in Tahrir Square on June 8. The assaults took place during the celebrations of Abdel Fatah al-Sisi’s inauguration as the new president.
The victims were reportedly stripped naked and sexually assaulted by a mob in Tahrir Square, and one of them suffered an incised wound to her genitals.