Last edited: December 19, 2004

Mass Gay Trial Begins in Egypt Newscenter in London, July 18, 2001

By Jon Ben Asher

Cairo—The trial begins today for 52 young men arrested in a raid on a floating gay club in Cairo. It is the biggest mass gay trial in Egyptian history.

The arrests have been denounced by international gay organizations. The men all between 18 and 35 years of age, were arrested in May when police raided the Queen Boat, a floating disco on the river Nile.

The case is being treated as a matter of state security and will be tried under the emergency law established in 1981 to protect the Egyptian government from Islamic militants.

If convicted they face three to five years in jail.

There is no right of appeal, but sentences have to be ratified by the president.

Although homosexuality is not specifically outlawed in Egypt, regulations on offending "public morals and sensitivities" are often used against gay men.

Egypt’s prosecutor-general, Maher Abdel-Wahid, has accused the defendants of "exploiting Islam through false interpretation of verses from the Muslim holy book, the Koran, in order to propagate extremist ideas".

They are also charged with "performing immoral acts; the use of perverted sexual practices as part of their rituals; contempt and despite of heavenly religions, and fomenting strife".

For the first two weeks of their detention, they were not allowed visits or access to lawyers and, according to relatives and friends, were subjected to torture, whipping and electrical shocks.

As a further humiliation, the prosecutor’s office ordered medical tests to determine whether they were involved in gay sex.

Newspapers published the names of the accused with their full addresses and occupations. Several of the families of the accused say they have been harassed by neighbours and co-workers.

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