Last edited: December 08, 2004

Egypt Releases Gay Prisoners Newscenter, May 27, 2002

By Jon ben Asher

Cairo—The Egyptian government Sunday ordered the release of 21 men convicted of "debauchery" in a crackdown on gays.

In an order signed by President Hosni Mubarak the men will be freed while awaiting a new trial. Last week Mubarak ordered a retrial for the men, convicted after a raid on a gay club in a Nile riverboat. (story) .

The government also said that it has abandoned plans to retry 29 other men found not guilty.

The 21 in prison have been subjected to physical exams to determine whether they had engaged in anal sex. They were also allegedly tortured.

A bail hearing will be scheduled by the prosecutor’s office. The prosecutor will also determine if there is sufficient new evidence to conduct a second trial.

The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC), Sunday, welcomed news that those found not guilty would not be subjected to a new trial, but called on Mubarek to call off the retrials of those already convicted, calling the original trial "a sham".

"We are cautiously optimistic at news that guilty verdicts in the case have actually been cancelled," said Scott Long, IGLHRC’s Program Director, who has been following the case closely since the beginning.

"But renewed prosecution would be renewed persecution. These trials must stop."

The sentences of two men who were called the "ringleaders" will remain intact. Dozens of other gay men arrested in other locations remain in prison.

Egypt has been under pressure from the European Union, Canada, and a group of US congressmen as well as from human rights groups.

" We must continue to press the Egyptian government to meet its international obligations, not jus tin a few symbolic cases, but across the board," Long said.

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