Egyptian court renews detention of TikTok star

Social media influencer Mawada Eladham will stay in jail for 45 days while Haneen Hossam to be released on bail over human trafficking charges

FILE PHOTO: Tik Tok logos are seen on smartphones in front of a displayed ByteDance logo in this illustration taken November 27, 2019. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo
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An Egyptian court on Wednesday renewed the detention of one female TikTok star, while ordering another to be released on bail, as the prosecution investigates charges of human trafficking, prostitution and money laundering, a member of the defence team told The National.

Social media influencers Haneen Hossam and Mawada Eladham, who were arrested last year, were acquitted of “violating family values” earlier this month.

“Yesterday the court decided to release them for 5,000 Egyptian pounds ($320) as a guarantee, but the prosecution appealed this decision,” said Ahmed Abdelnaby, a lawyer representing Ms Eladham.

On Wednesday, the court rejected the appeal for Ms Hossam and accepted the appeal for Ms Eladham, who will stay in pre-trial detention for up to 45 days.

Ms Hossam, 21, and Ms Eladham, 22, had been sentenced to two years in prison and fined 300,000 Egyptian pounds each in July.

Ms Hossam, who had over a million TikTok followers, was arrested after encouraging women to post videos on Likee, a streaming app that allows users to make money based on the number of followers they attract.

Ms Eladham, who had 3.1 million TikTok followers and 1.6 million Instagram followers, was accused of posting lip-synching and dance videos that were deemed indecent. She also used Likee.

“Now there’s another extension for the same case, for the same acts, but they put different charges to keep these girls prosecuted,” said Mr Abdelnaby, who is executive director of the Regional Centre for Rights and Liberties, a non-profit organisation.

Three men are also facing charges in the new case, including Egyptian employees of the company Likee, Mr Abdelnaby said.

Prosecutors allege Likee is being used to facilitate prostitution. “But they have no evidence for that,” Mr Abdelnaby said. “It’s just a normal app, like TikTok, like YouTube.”

The women are among several social media influencers arrested in recent months for content that authorities describe as “violating family values and principles”.

Under Egypt's 2018 cybercrime law, anyone running an account on the internet to commit a crime faces at least two years in jail and a fine of up to 300,000 Egyptian pounds.

Human trafficking charges would carry a tougher jail sentence of 10 to 20 years, Mr Abdelnaby said. But “we are very, very optimistic because this case has no evidence at all”, he added.