"Damanhour Five" Win Appeal in Egypt
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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