Last edited: December 19, 2004

"Cairo 52" Convicts to Be Released Pending Prosecutor’s Decision: IGLHRC Calls for an End to Trials

The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, May 26, 2002

For additional information, contact:
Sydney Levy, IGLHRC, +1-415-577-8680 (cell),
Scott Long, IGLHRC, +1-212-216-1814,

The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) today called on Egyptian prosecutors not to launch new trials against 50 men already subjected to a sham trial for homosexual conduct last year.

"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."

IGLHRC was encouraged by the Egyptian government’s decision to cancel the verdicts against men convicted of the "habitual practice of debauchery." Initial press reports last week held that President Hosni Mubarak had ordered a full retrial for 50 of the 52 defendants in the notorious case—including 29 men who were acquitted as well as 21 who were convicted. IGLHRC has learned that these reports were inaccurate. Instead, officials actually annulled the verdicts in all those 50 cases. Both guilty and innocent verdicts were sent back to prosecutors, who will now have the power to decide whether to seek a retrial.

The Ministry of Interior ordered that the 21 men in prison be released on bail, pending the prosecutors’ decision whether to try them again. Most will be freed within days or weeks. However, prosecutors may still decide to seek a retrial not only for those men but for the 29 acquitted. Any retrial would be held in an ordinarily court, rather than an Emergency State Security Court—a repressive" anti-terrorist" court which heard the original case, and which does not allow appeal.

"At the same time," added Mr. Long, "the prison sentences of two men in this case have been confirmed—and many other suspected gay men across Egypt remain in prison. We must continue to press the Egyptian government to meet its international obligations, not just in a few symbolic cases, but across the board."

President Mubarak apparently cancelled the verdicts of all the men who were charged only with "habitual practice of debauchery," in a tacit admission that that charge does not, under Egyptian law, merit a trial before an Emergency State Security Court. At the same time, he confirmed the harsh verdicts against two men in the same case who were convicted of "contempt of religion."

"The President continues to lend his endorsement to the Emergency State Security Courts," said Mr. Long—"courts routinely used to suppress peaceful dissent, and which violate any standard for a fair trial. And the President’s decision also baldly declares that freedom of religion and freedom of expression do not exist in Egypt."

The 52 men in the case were arrested on or around the night of May 10/11, 2001. That night, police raided the Queen Boat discotheque in Cairo; other police pickups followed in the next days. The 52 were tortured, and jailed until their trial. Defense lawyers argued that proper arrest procedures were not followed, that the arrests were made at random, and that charges were fabricated by ambitious vice squad officers. The State-controlled media engaged in a campaign of vilification against the 52, publishing their names and branding them perverts, blasphemers, and traitors.

All 52 pleaded innocent. In the November 14 verdict, 21 defendants were convicted of "habitual practice of debauchery" under Article 9(c) of Law 10/1961 (on the Combat of Prostitution). One defendant was convicted of "contempt for religion" under Article 98f of the Penal Code. Another defendant, accused of being the "ringleader," was convicted of both charges and received the heaviest sentence, five years at hard labor. Those last two defendants will still serve their terms, according to the Presidential decision.

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