Cairo: The case of a high-school student stabbed to death by a teen while defending a girl against harassment has sparked outrage in Egypt and put in spotlight what critics see as flaws in the country’s child law.
The prime defendant is identified as Mohammad Rajeh, a teen, who was angered by Mahmoud Al Bana, 18 after he reproached him for harassing a girl in the street in the province of Menufia, north of Cairo, earlier this month, witnesses and legal sources said.
In reaction, Rajeh reportedly sent death threat messages to Al Bana via WhatsApp and arranged with three friends to punish him.
On October 9, the four, armed with knives and incendiary substances, were seen in street surveillance cameras stopping Al Bana and assailing him. Rajeh fatally stabbed Al Bana with the assistance of the three others, witnesses said.
News of the murder went viral online and drew massive condemnations. An outpouring of tributes has since flooded social media for Al Bana, dubbed a “hero” and the “martyr of gallantry”.
Sympathisers have also set up the popular hashtag in Arabic “Execution of Rajeh is right” and posted the victim’s picture.
“We will see Rajeh being executed soon, we are all waiting for that day,” a girl, named Zainab, said in a tweet.
“Every free woman will never forget you. Rest in peace.,” tweeted another mourner named Fatima. Sexual harassment is a big problem in Egypt.
The province’s governor Saeed Abbas offered condolences to the victim’s parents and promised justice.
March for justice
Angry locals in Al Bana’s hometown, meanwhile, marched in his memory, demanding the killers be sentenced to death.
All the four defendants were found to be under the age of 18, which means they will not face the death penalty if convicted.
According to the Egyptian law, offenders under 18 are tried at the juveniles court and face a maximum 15 years in jail served in a reformatory when convicted of murder.
Egypt’s chief prosecutor ordered an urgent trial for Rajeh and the three accomplices on charges of premeditated murder. The trial is due to open on Sunday at the Juveniles Court.
Calls to amend child law
Al Bana’s murder has prompted calls for amending the child law in Egypt.
“The defendants in the case are minors and as such will be prosecuted according to the child law issued in 1966, which stipulates that no one under the age of 18 can be sentenced to death or life imprisonment,” Mustafa Al Bages, the lawyer for the victim, said.
“Given technological and intellectual progress, this law encourages children to commit crimes,” he told private Egyptian television Al Hadth Al Youm.
“Children can be paid money and exploited in committing crimes and still evading the death penalty. An underage boy can kill any person, gets jailed for some years and then walk free,” he added.