Map of Egypt
Map of Egypt

CAIRO - Egyptian prosecutors said they have shelved their months-long investigation into an alleged 2014 gang rape of a 17-year-old girl at a luxury Cairo hotel, ordering the release of all suspects for lack of evidence.

The case shocked Egypt's conservative society when it was revealed last year by a social media account that tracks alleged sexual assaults in the country.

In a detailed statement late Tuesday, prosecutors said evidence collected during their nearly nine-month investigation was not enough to refer the case to a criminal court. The statement said witnesses gave conflicted testimonies.

Prosecutors ordered the release of the four suspects, who were arrested last year and jailed pending investigations. Three of them were arrested in Lebanon and deported to Cairo last year.

Prosecutors said the probe could be reopened if new evidence emerges.

The alleged gang rape involves a group of young men from wealthy and powerful families. They allegedly drugged the teen at a party at a five-star Cairo hotel, then took turns raping her.

Accounts of the alleged assault surfaced amid a renewed #MeToo campaign on social media that swept Egypt last summer.

Potential witnesses in the suspected gang rape case and acquaintances were arrested as private, explicit videos purportedly from their phones circulated via private messenger apps. Some of them were later released.

In a joint statement Wednesday, seven Egyptian rights groups asked prosecutors to reconsider their decision. The groups, including the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, said prosecutors ignored the arrest and intimidation of some of the witnesses, which "undoubtedly contributed to such regrettable outcome."

The investigation into the hotel case uncovered another alleged gang rape in the North Coast resort. Three suspects were referred to criminal trial last month in that resort case.