Egypt Bows to International Rights Outcry
The Data Lounge,
June 5, 2002 http://www.datalounge.com/datalounge/news/record.html?record=19966
CAIRO—International gay civil rights activists are claiming at least
partial credit for Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s decision last week to
throw out the verdicts against all but two of 52 defendants in the Queen Boat
case. In an order signed by Mubarak on May 26, the 21 men convicted on the
"habitual practice of debauchery," will be freed while the date for
a new trial is set. The government also officially abandoned its plans to
retry 29 other men found not guilty.
International gay rights activists staged demonstrations in Europe and the
United States to protest the incarceration of the men. Activists presuaded
French President Jacques Chirac to raise the subject in face-to-face meetings
held in Paris in February.
American activists pressed Congress for action, and in March, some 40 U.S.
lawmakers sent a letter of protest about the case to Nabil Fahmi, Egypt’s
ambassador in Washington.
"It’s a surprise," The San Francisco Chronicle quotes Ahmad
Seif of the Hisham Mubarak Center, one of the few Egyptian organizations brave
enought to assist the Queen Boat defendants. The center sent an appeal
directly to Mubarak after the guilty verdicts were read, claiming had been
illegally sent to a state security cour.
To everyone’s surprise, the misuse of the state security court was cited
by Mubarak in throwing out the guilty verdicts and ordering a new trial. The
case has been sent back to Egypt’s public prosecutor, who will decide
whether to drop the charges r or schedule a retrial in a criminal court.
Two remaining defendants, Sherif Farahat and Mahmoud Allam, identified by
prosecutors as "conspiracy leaders," were not so lucky; they had
their five and three year sentences confirmed by Mubarak.
What Mubarak’s recent moves signal about the future extent of gay
repression in Egypt is uncertain. Scott Long of the International Gay and
Lesbian Human Rights Commission told the Chronicle rights advocates should not
be lulled into thinking the worst is over.
"[R]enewed prosecution would be renewed persecution," Long said.
"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."
Concerned members of Congress were recently presented with denials from a
delegation of Egyptian businessmen and government officials who claimed the
Queen Boat arrests were related only to "prostitution, public lewdness
and sexual promiscuity" and were in no way gay-related.
This provoked a typically robust response from one noteworthy member of
Congress, Rep. Barney Frank.
"What’s the Arabic word for ‘bullshit’?" Frank is said to
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