British man arrested in Egypt 'for patting police officer on back'

Ruth Michaelson in Cairo
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UK man arrested in Egypt for 'pat on the back' is released

A British man is being held in Egypt after officials said he sexually assaulted a police officer, but his family claim a gentle pat on the back landed him in detention.

Tony Remo Camoccio, 51, was arrested at airport security in the Egyptian resort town of Hurghada last Saturday. According to a social media page set up to plead his case, “he was at final checkpoint where he was, as a standard procedure for all outbound passengers, patted down by a security officer. Tony then gently patted the officers back, and is now facing serious accusations.”

Egyptian officials maintained that Camoccio made sexual gestures at a police officer, and claimed CCTV footage supported their version of events.

“We checked with the police surveillance system – the passenger molested the police officer who was checking him at security. When this was investigated, they checked CCTV and saw that what the policeman said is true,” said Samia Mossad, a manager at the airport.

She said the officer declined to tell her specifically how Camoccio had inappropriately touched him, due to an unwillingness to describe the incident to a woman.

She declined a request by the Guardian to view the CCTV footage, which she said was “classified information”. Camoccio’s family say Hurghada airport is withholding CCTV footage that would clear his name.

The Egyptian pro-government website Cairo24 quoted a police source as saying the “tourist didn’t follow the law, and made sexual gestures to one of the police officers who was keeping the public order”. It added that this resulted in an argument inside the airport where others intervened to end the dispute. The officer in question then “insisted on getting his rights and implementing the law”.

Egyptian authorities say they are taking steps to eliminate harassment, including imposing a fine on those who pester tourists at attractions throughout the country. A United Nations study published in 2013 revealed that “99.3% of Egyptian girls and women surveyed reported some form of sexual harassment in their lifetime”.

Egyptian prosecutors ordered that Camoccio be detained for four days pending an investigation. His family said his detention was then extended for a further 15 days, but he has not been charged. On the Facebook page supporting Camoccio, his family say “the police are very uncooperative and are withholding evidence that would clear Tony of any wrongdoing”.

Tourism has slowly returned to Egyptian resorts such as Hurghada and Sharm el-Sheikh after a four-year drop in numbers following the 2015 downing of a Russian passenger plane in South Sinai. An estimated 9 million tourists visited Egypt in 2018.

A British tourist, Laura Plummer, was detained at Hurghada airport in 2017 and served 13 months in prison after a scan of her bag revealed she was carrying 290 tablets of the painkiller Tramadol, a controlled substance in Egypt.

An Foreign Office spokesperson said: “We are in contact with a British man who has been arrested in Egypt. Our staff are in touch with his family and the Egyptian authorities.”

Adham Youssef contributed to this report