Last edited: December 06, 2004

"Damanhour Five" Win Appeal in Egypt

Datalounge, April 16, 2002

DAMANHOUR, Egypt—In a move that surprised and delighted human rights groups, an Egyptian appeals court overturned the convictions of five men convicted March 11 of the "habitual practice of debauchery" and hosting what prosecutors called gay sex parties. The court reduced the three year prison sentences to three years’ probation.

"We are gratified that the Egyptian government is beginning to recognize its human rights obligations," stated Scott Long, Program Director at the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC). "Unfortunately an unknown number of innocent people remain in prison because of their suspected homosexuality. We must continue the pressure until they are all released."

The release of the "Damanhour Five" follows a year of brutal suppression, stepped up arrests, torture and hard labor sentences handed down to Egyptians suspected of being gay. Like the 23 men given prison sentences last November in the Queen Boat case, the Egyptian government uses the "debauchery" code to persecute and terrorize citizens based on their sexual orientation. The men were forced to sign confessions after interrogations that included beatings and torture. All five were subjected to brutal medical examinations the results of which the prosecution later presented in court as "proof" the men had been "used" and were therefore guilty of the charges against them.

According to the Geneva-based World Organization Against Torture (OMCT), the five men were arrested by Egyptian authorities in January along with three other men and two women. The OMCT said the men were held for four days at Damanhour Police Station Number One, where at least two of them were tortured with the use of electric shocks by two prison officials and ten guards.

After that, each of the five men were reportedly beaten by two guards under the instruction of the officials. This practice, known as the "reception party," is reportedly common in Egyptian prisons.

The OMCT report states that one of the men was formally interrogated and that the others were forced to sign documents they were not allowed to read. No access to legal counsel had been granted to the men before their so-called confessions were signed.

Egypt’s gay crackdown has been condemned by international human rights organizations all over the world. Egypt’s penal code does not outlaw homosexuality, but laws against obscenity, debauchery and prostitution have been used to justify gay-related convictions.

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