Last edited: February 14, 2005

Egyptian President Orders Gay Retrial

Datalounge, May 28, 2002

CAIRO, Egypt—The BBC reports court officials in Egypt say President Hosni Mubarak has intervened and ordered the retrial of 21 men convicted last year on charges of "practicing sexual immorality," a local euphemism for homosexuality.

In an order signed by Mubarak the men will be freed while awaiting a new trial. The government has also officially abandoned its plans to retry 29 other men found not guilty.

Observers say the president now admits the "immorality" charge does not, under Egyptian law, justify a trial before a Security Court—a separate trial procedure designed for "terrorists" and threats to the state.

An Emergency State Security Court for Misdemeanors in Cairo sentenced 23 men accused of homosexual acts to one to five years at hard labor on November 14, 2001. At the same time the Court acquitted 29 additional defendants. Most of these men, including all 29 acquitted, must apparently now undergo a new trial.

Under the rules established by the state security courts, the Egyptian president is the only government official who could have voided the convictions made by the security court.

The 52 were arrested on or around the night of May 10/11, 2001. That night, police raided the Queen Boat disco 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.

Mubarak overturned the convictions of 21 of the men on the grounds that the security court did not have proper authority to hear the charges.

He ordered that they be retried in a regular misdemeanors court along with the 29 who had been acquitted. He let stand the convictions of two men charged with "denigrating monotheistic religions."

"Since November, Egypt has sentenced many other men for homosexual conduct, in other trials," said Scott Long of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, "and the arrests continue. The President’s reported action does nothing for other victims still in prison."

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