Egyptian court acquits jailed female TikTok stars

Social media influencers Haneen Hossam and Mawada Eladham had been fined and sentenced to two years in prison

FILE PHOTO: A person holds a smartphone as TikTok logo is displayed behind in this picture illustration taken Nov. 7, 2019. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo
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An Egyptian appeals court acquitted on Tuesday two young female TikTok stars who were jailed last summer over videos found to “violate family values”.

Haneen Hossam, 20, and Mawada Eladham, in her early 20s, had been sentenced to two years in prison and fined 300,000 Egyptian pounds ($19,133) each in July.

Hossam's lawyer Hussein El Bakar told Reuters the Cairo University student fainted on hearing the verdict.

“Haneen went through a lot of psychological pressure because of being jailed for the past nine months,” he said.

Hossam, who has 1.2 million TikTok followers, was acquitted of charges of inciting debauchery, but is still facing charges of human trafficking.

She had been arrested in April 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. Egyptian prosecutors accused Hossam of inviting women to sell sex online, a charge she denied.

Eladhm, who has 3.1 million TikTok followers and 1.6 million Instagram followers, was acquitted after being arrested in May for posting lip-synching and dance videos that were deemed indecent.

The women are among a dozen social media influencers arrested in recent months for content that authorities describe as “violating family values and principles”. Last year, several Egyptian lawmakers demanded the government suspend TikTok.

Negad El Borai, a Cairo-based lawyer and former member of the National Council for Human Rights, told The National the definition of "family values" is loose.

“What’s the meaning of Egyptian values? What’s the meaning of Egyptian values for the judge, for the prosecutor? What you believe is against your family values is so different to another person,” he said. “How can we send people to the penal court for this?”

The news was posted to a prominent Instagram account that monitors sexual harassment cases in Egypt along with a satirical hashtag suggesting the two women must have now received the permission of “the Egyptian family.”

The post prompted over 600 comments, mostly supportive, including one user who wrote: “How can 100 million people have the same values? Me and my cousin don’t even have the same family values!”

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.

The court also acquitted three men sentenced in the same case on charges that included helping one of the women evade arrest, concealing evidence and publishing material to influence public opinion, Egyptian news website Ahram Online reported.