Dubai model seeks Dh1.4m damages after Egyptian footballer row

A Dubai model is claiming Dh1.4 million in damages against an Egyptian presenter she claims insulted her on live television.

Merhan Keller, 28, was targeted with a tirade of sexual harassment and abuse on social media after publicly revealing unwanted advances made to her by Egyptian footballer Amr Warda during the African Cup of Nations in June.

Warda was suspended from the team, but then reinstated after winning support from teammates including Liverpool star Mo Salah.

Ms Keller is claiming substantial damages against Tamer Amin, a prime-time television presenter in Egypt she claims defamed her live on TV when reporting the incident.

Mr Amin referenced an image of the Egyptian-born model alongside actor Mohammed Ramadan, accompanied by words her lawyer claims were slanderous, insulting and of a sexual nature.

Mr Amin told The National he “may have spoken sarcastically” but was “shocked” when he was told of the court hearing.

But Ms Keller claimed: “This case is not just about media, but many media anchors and channels in Egypt that have been insulting people publicly, without considering the damage they are inflicting.”

“Mr Amin did not even call me to ask for my opinion or talk about the issue.

“Instead he focused on the way I looked, stating someone as ugly as me could not be a victim of sexual harassment.

“He created a trend and made it funny to victimise me.”

According to the lawsuit, Mr Amin addressed the problem between the model and some players of the Egyptian football team on June 24 during a show presented by national broadcaster Al Nahar.

Ms Keller is accusing him of using words that carry contempt and insult against her during a TV show watched by millions of people.

The comments also suggested Ms Keller had been harassing the Egyptian footballers during a pre-tournament training camp, her lawyer claims.

They are demanding a maximum punishment against Mr Amin, as per the country’s penal code for breaching privacy.

The incident caused scandal in Egypt with Ms Keller receiving scores of death threats and sexual harassment on social media from online trolls.

Elsewhere, she won support from sympathetic women in Egypt who had suffered similar experiences.

“My mother has been harassed endlessly in the street and couldn’t go outside to buy groceries for months,” she said.

In the original incident, Warda is alleged to have sent inappropriate videos to Ms Keller, who then spurned the footballer’s romantic advances.

Ms Keller was blamed by some fans for the Pharaohs’ early exit from the tournament as hosts.

More than 75 fake social media accounts were then set up in her name, fuelling her online harassment.

Other women have since emerged, claiming they were also sent similar explicit material from Warda, 26, in what has become Egypt’s #MeToo moment.

Ms Keller said by publicising the explicit nature of the messages sent to her, she created discussion on how to police online abuse.

“The attitude towards Warda completely shifted when I shared the actual explicit nature of the messages and videos,” said Ms Keller.

“Many women have sent me supportive messages and attitudes are beginning to change.

“Before it was insults and accusations, now people are defending me.”

It is not the first time Mr Amin has been in hot water over his comments.

Last year, he was briefly suspended from presenting his show, Aker El Nahar, following allegedly sexist and misogynistic comments aimed at the husband of former Egyptian swimmer Rania Elwani.

Complaints were submitted to the Supreme Media Council against Mr Amin by the National Council for Women for disparaging comments about co-parenting.

Mr Amin denies the allegations from Ms Keller, and claims he was merely reporting the news.

“I was shocked when I learned Ms Keller had taken legal action against me,” Mr Amin said in a statement to The National.

“I have tackled the issue only as media coverage.

“I strongly criticised the related issues during Egypt’s participation in the African Cup of Nations.

“It was a very important tournament being hosted in Egypt, and Amr Warda was one of the most important players.”

The presenter claims as soon as Ms Keller publicly revealed the offensive posts from Warda, she became open to criticism and comment.

“I may have spoken sarcastically, but that was within the permissible media criticism and analysis which included neither insults nor defamation,” he said.

“It would have been defamation if I had mentioned her or posted a photo of her for no reason, but she was the one who spread the news by publishing the posts from Warda.

“I respect everyone and have no issue with Ms Keller, who I do not personally know.

“Public figures have to accept criticism, even if it is sarcasm.”

The case is due to be heard at Nasr City Misdemeanour Court in Cairo on Thursday, January 30.

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