Last edited: February 14, 2005

Protest at Egypt "Gay Detentions"

BBC Online News, June 8, 2001

The human rights organisation Amnesty International says it is "gravely concerned" about the detention of 54 Egyptian men, allegedly for their sexual orientation.

The men were arrested by state security and vice officers nearly a month ago in a raid on a Nile river boat reportedly known as a meeting place for gay men.

Amnesty says that the men have been subjected to examinations to determine if they had engaged in homosexual sex.

It also said they showed signs of having been tortured since their arrest on 11 May.

The organisation has called for their "immediate and unconditional release".

Broad charges

The men — many reportedly in their teens -- have been charged with contempt of religion and immoral behaviour.

Egyptian law does not specifically prohibit homosexuality, but the charges of contempt of religion and immoral behaviour are "very broad," Amnesty told BBC News Online.

A spokesman said the immoral behaviour charge was added after the medical examinations and was "clearly" related to them.

The organisation says it has received no response from Egypt’s public prosecutor to a letter expressing concern and seeking more details about the arrests.

Raided before

The Cairo Times newspaper reported that the boat where the men were arrested, the Queen Boat, has been raided before, but that suspects have never before been transferred to the prosecutor’s office to face formal charges.

The newspaper said that detainees are normally released after three to 10 days.

Amnesty has also criticised Egyptian media reporting of the arrests.

The suspects’ names have been published, as have some photos, places of work and one address.

Homosexuality is taboo in Egypt, and the Cairo Times reported that several local human rights organisations were reluctant to intervene on behalf of the detainees because of the allegation of homosexuality.

An appeals court in Egypt recently reduced the sentences of two men found guilty of setting up a website to promote homosexuality.

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