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Egyptian court orders two female TikTok stars be freed from jail

Egypt court overturns TikTok stars’ jail sentences

An Egyptian court on Tuesday ruled in favour of two female TikTok stars who were jailed last year for accounts that were found to violate family morals and for posting indecent videos.

Social media influencer Haneen Hossam, 20, was acquitted after being jailed for encouraging women to broadcast videos in exchange for money, while Mawada Eladham's two-year sentence for publishing indecent photos and videos was cancelled.

Hossam's lawyer Hussein El Bakar told the Thomson Reuters Foundation that the TikTok star, who is a student at Cairo University, fainted on hearing the verdict.

"Haneen went through a lot of psychological pressure because of being jailed for the past nine months," he said, adding that Hossam would be freed although she is still facing charges of human trafficking, with no date set for the ruling.

Several women have been accused of "inciting debauchery" by challenging Egypt's conservative social values, and the battle has moved online as the use of social media by young Egyptians surges.

Egyptian parliamentarians last year demanded the government suspend the video-sharing TikTok app in the country, saying it promoted nudity and immorality.

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 ($19,206).

Hossam was arrested after she said on Instagram that women could make friends with men through a video app, receiving a fee according to the number of followers they attracted. Authorities saw this as encouraging young women to sell sex online.

READ: Egypt arrests another TikTok influencer as crackdown on social media continues

Two men who had been jailed for managing the women's social media accounts were also acquitted on Tuesday, while a third was found guilty of managing Eladham's accounts and fined.

The court kept intact the fine that Eladham was ordered to pay last year.

Reda Eldanbouki, executive director of the Women's Center for Guidance and Legal Awareness, said the verdict was a victory for freedom of expression but the TikTok stars had suffered in jail.

"The two women have been put under great social pressure over the past months and we appeal for providing psychological support for them to overcome what they have experienced inside the prison," he said.

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