Prepared by: Alaa Kulaib, researcher at the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression’s Research Unit
- Background: Crackdown on TikTok girls
- Prosecution’s investigations affect private life
- The trial: Violation of Egyptian family values leads to prison
This paper relies on the legal analysis of the documents of content creator Hadeer alHadi’s case, which carries No. 762 of 2020 (Cairo Economic Misdemeanour). The paper also relies on official data issued by the Public Prosecution, and media reports that tackled the case.
This paper comes as part of AFTE’s work to provide a legal analysis of what is known as the TikTok trials. AFTE has previously provided analyses of some of these cases.
Hadeer alHadi was arrested near Al-Hosari Mosque in the 6th of October City on 5 July 2020.
On 27 October 2020, the Cairo Economic Court sentenced alHadi to two years in prison and fined her 100,000 pounds. On 7 April 2021, the court of appeal upheld the jail term and the fine.
Prior to the ruling, lawyer Ashraf Farahat submitted several complaints to the Public Prosecution against female content creators, as part of a campaign aiming to impose moral guardianship on women. As described by its founder, the campaign acted as moral police aiming to purify Egyptian society. Farahat filed other complaints against a number of female content creators, after they posted entertaining and dancing videos on social media.
The court indicted alHadi over charges of using social media with the aim of committing an indecent act that violates public modesty, violating the Egyptian family values, and promoting prostitution.
Background: Crackdown on TikTok girls
The Public Prosecution has been playing a social surveillance role, based on monitoring internet users and evaluating their social behavior, with the aim of referring to trials those whose behavior the Public Prosecution does not like. This was evident in the crackdown on TikTok girls through the Public Prosecution’s Monitoring and Analysis Unit.
The Public Prosecution issued an arrest warrant for alHadi and ordered the search of her home. It relied on police investigations, based on monitoring alHadi’s social media activity. alHadi has many followers on TikTok and Instagram, where she posts music and dancing videos in return for money. The investigation report stated that the police had spotted obscene videos of alHadi posted online. The case carried No. 712 of 2020 (October Gardens Misdemeanour).
After her arrest on 5 July 2020, police forces took alHadi to her home where they seized her filming devices and credit card. She faced charges of posting indecent photos and videos of herself.
During the investigations, the Criminal Evidence Department denied that the videos belonged to alHadi.
Prosecution’s investigations affect private life
The prosecutor requested the passcode of alHadi’s mobile phone during the investigations, and then searched the photos, videos, and personal conversations on her phone. A police officer had earlier seized alHadi’s phone, according to the report attached to the case documents.
The case papers show that the photos and videos the Public Prosecution faced alHadi with were not posted on social media, but were stored on her mobile phone.
Article 54 of the constitution stipulates that “personal freedom is a natural right which is safeguarded and cannot be infringed upon. Except in cases of in flagrante delicto, citizens may only be apprehended, searched, arrested, or have their freedoms restricted by a causal judicial warrant necessitated by an investigation”. Any assault on personal freedoms or sanctity of the life of citizens is a crime with no statute of limitations, according to Article 99 of the constitution.
Article 57 of the constitution also states that “private life is inviolable, safeguarded and may not be infringed upon. Telegraph, postal, and electronic correspondence, telephone calls, and other forms of communication are inviolable, their confidentiality is guaranteed and they may only be confiscated, examined or monitored by causal judicial order, for a limited period of time, and in cases specified by the law”.
During the investigations, the Public Prosecution found out that the accounts attributed to alHadi do indeed belong to her. Although it was not proven that indecent materials were posted on these accounts at the time of examination, the prosecution accused alHadi of outraging public modesty based on videos deleted from her official accounts on social media. Deleted clips cannot be considered as digital evidence, as this violates the law on combatting information technology crimes.
Meanwhile, alHadi denied any link to the obscene videos the prosecution faced her with. alHadi’s lawyer did not attend the first session of investigation, although there was no exceptional reason to investigate her without the presence of her lawyer.
The Public Prosecution charged alHadi with promoting prostitution and making money from publishing indecent videos, based on financial transfers to alHadi from individuals in different countries. alHadi said she had received money from the company that owns Likee, and also from her followers on social media in order to support her.
The Public Prosecution charged alHadi with the following:
- Deliberately posting indecent images and videos on social media (Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube) in which she displayed her charms, accompanied by suggestive gestures and expressions.
- Committing an indecent act by displaying her charms with suggestive gestures and expressions in the videos she posted on her social media accounts.
- Posting pictures and videos that contained seduction in a way that draws attention to prostitution.
- Violating the Egyptian family values and principles by publishing these indecent pictures and videos.
- Using social media accounts with the aim of facilitating the commission of the aforementioned crimes.
The Public Prosecution demanded that alHadi be punished according to the following legal texts:
- Articles 178 and 278 of the Penal Code
- Articles 14 and 15 of Law 10 of 1961 on combating prostitution
- Articles 1, 12, 25, and 27 of Law 175 of 2018 on combating information technology crimes
The trial: Violation of Egyptian family values leads to prison
The Public Prosecution referred alHadi’s case to the Economic Court on 14 September 2020, pending investigation into Case No. 762 of 2020 (Cairo Economic Misdemeanour). The Economic Court sentenced alHadi to two years in prison, ordered her to pay a fine of 100,000 pounds, and placed her under police surveillance for a period equivalent to the length of the sentence. After an appeal was filed, the Economic Court of Appeal upheld the previous ruling on 7 April 2021.
In its ruling, the Economic Court of Appeal upheld the charges the Public Prosecution levelled against alHadi. However, it ignored alHadi’s argument that she received money from the company that owns Likee, but did not promote prostitution.
The reasoning behind the ruling indicated that there was no relationship between alHadi and the girl who appeared in the obscene videos, according to the report of the Criminal Evidence Department. The report also stated that there was a difference between alHadi and the girl who appeared in the videos in terms of the general appearance and the biometric measurements. The court, moreover, did not find out that there was sexual relationship between alHadi and the individuals who provided her with money.
On the other hand, the investigations conducted by the Department of Combating Illegal Migration and Human Trafficking revealed that alHadi did not exploit other girls for any benefit or gain through her online activity, although she invited many girls to subscribe to Likee and make money from it. Therefore, the prosecution did not charge her with human trafficking.
The charge of violating the Egyptian family values contains an unspecified term, according to which convictions are subject to the judge’s opinion. The accusations based on the law on combatting prostitution do not take into account the great technological and digital development the world has witnessed, and the fact that content creators get financial returns for the viewership rates they achieve.
AFTE calls on the presidential pardon committee to include the youths involved in the TikTok trials in the amnesty lists that will be issued by the President of the Republic in accordance with his powers stipulated in Article 155 of the constitution. The arbitrary rulings issued in the TikTok trials violate the women’s right to freedom of expression.
 AFTE, Hadeer Hamdy Abdel-Hady Saad Sabah, “Hadeer alHadi,” TikTok cases, https://afteegypt.org/tiktok-ar/2021/05/14/21997-afteegypt.html  Baladna Al-Youm, TikTok girl Hadeer alHadi referred to criminal trial, 14 September 2020, https://bit.ly/3NepVR7  According to a “draft of the reasons and text of the ruling issued on 27 October 2022".  The Public Prosecution’s official Facebook page, 2 May 2020, link: https://www.facebook.com/ppo.gov.eg/posts/294944125166470  The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, “Your phone and ID card”: The first part of an observational and legal study on emerging routine practices in Egyptian criminal justice institutions that strip citizens of the minimum constitutional protection of the right to a private life and the right to legal representation before the judiciary, 13 February 2020, https://tinyurl.com/2s3rtdrj  Article 178 of the Penal Code states: “Whoever makes or holds, for the purpose of trade, distribution, leasing, pasting or displaying printed matter, manuscripts, drawings, advertisements, carved or engraved pictures, manual or photographic drawings, symbolic signs, or other objects or pictures in general, if they are against public morals, shall be punished with detention for a period not exceeding two years and a fine of not less than five thousand pounds and not exceeding ten thousand pounds or either penalty.” Article 278 states: “Whoever commits in public a scandalous act against pudency shall be punished with detention for a period not exceeding one year or a fine not exceeding three hundred pounds.”  Article 14 of the law on combatting prostitution states: “Whoever publicizes by any form of publicity an invitation which includes inducement to debauchery or prostitution, or draws attention to this, shall be punished by imprisonment for a period not exceeding three years and a fine not exceeding 100 pounds in the Egyptian region and 1000 liras in the Syrian region, or one of the two punishments.” Article 15 of the law on combatting prostitution states: “As a consequence of a judgement of guilty in one of the crimes stipulated in this law, the convicted person may be placed under observation by the police for a period equivalent to the length of the sentence, without prejudice to the special laws regarding homelessness.”  See Legal Publications website, Law on Combating Information Technology Crimes, link: https://manshurat.org/node/31487