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Egypt tries man over murder of student who refused marriage proposal

Murder of 21-year-old Nayera Ashraf outside her university has triggered widespread anger in Egypt and beyond
Ashraf had previously reported the alleged perpetrator to the authorities, fearing that he would attack her, according to her father and witnesses (Screengrab/Twitter)

A trial began on Sunday for an Egyptian man accused of stabbing a woman to death in a public street after she rejected his marriage proposal, a case that has sparked widespread outrage.

A video went viral last week appearing to show the victim, identified as student Nayera Ashraf, 21, being stabbed by a young man outside Mansoura University.

Footage of the incident shows the assailant was restrained by bystanders and arrested by the police, local media reported.

The crime has triggered widespread anger both in Egypt and beyond, having been followed a few days later by a similar incident in which Jordanian student Iman Rashid, 21, was shot dead on a university campus.

An unverified image shared online of a text message allegedly sent to Rashid before her killing cited Ashraf's fatal stabbing, and says: “Tomorrow I'll come to speak to you and if you refuse, I will murder you like the Egyptian man who killed the girl yesterday."

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Middle East Eye could not independently verify the authenticity of the text message.

Social media users immediately drew comparisons between the two murders, decrying cases of femicide in the Arab world.

At the Mansoura Criminal Court, 130km north of Cairo, Mohamed Adel was accused of "premeditated murder" after confessing to intentionally killing the victim, an AFP correspondent said.

Ashraf had previously reported the alleged perpetrator to the authorities, fearing that he would attack her, according to her father and witnesses.

Threatening messages

The maximum penalty for murder is death in Egypt, which carried out the third highest number of executions in the world in 2021, according to Amnesty International.

"He stabbed her several times," said the prosecution, which found "messages threatening to cut her throat" on the victim's phone.

Separate murders of two female students triggers region-wide anger
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The next hearing is set for Tuesday, the defendant's lawyer, Ahmed Hamad, told AFP.

In a rare occurrence among cases involving violence against women, authorities allowed television cameras to film the hearing on Sunday.

On social media, many Jordanian and Egyptian users called for the perpetrator to be sentenced to death, while others said men must "learn to take no for an answer".

Egyptian preacher Mabrouk Attia sparked outrage last week after suggesting that the victim would not have met the same fate had she been veiled.

Nearly eight million Egyptian women were victims of violence committed by their partners or relatives, or by strangers in public spaces, according to a United Nations survey conducted in 2015.

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