Egypt Tries 52 Suspected Gay Men for "Immorality"
Reuters, July 18, 2001
By Andrew Hammond
CAIROA controversial trial opened on Wednesday
in a Cairo state security court of 52 men suspected of homosexuality, as
female relatives of the accused screamed hysterically and slapped and shouted
"Why are you taking pictures? Dont take pictures! Dont make a
scandal!" two women shouted at a Reuters photographer, as they slapped
and punched him in the face and tried to drag him outside the courtroom.
Many of the 52 men who filed into the cramped courtroom covered their heads
with towels in an effort to hide their faces. One fainted, but recovered in
the crowded stifling hot courtroom after the trial began two hours later than
The judge set the next trial session for August 15, when defence lawyers
will begin their arguments.
The men face charges including "forming a group which aims to exploit
the Islamic religion to propagate extremist ideas" and "practising
sexual immorality" seen as a euphemism for homosexuality, which
Egyptian law does not expressly prohibit.
They were detained in May in a police raid on a floating nightclub on the
Nile known locally as a popular gay venue.
If convicted, the men could face five-year jail terms.
The case, which has received extensive coverage in the local media, has
aroused strong passions in conservative Egypt, where homosexuality is regarded
All of them pleaded not guilty when the charges were read out, some quoting
Koranic verses to protest their innocence.
Dozens of angry relatives assailed waiting journalists outside the
"You journalists are filthy. The press wants to scandalise us!"
angry women shouted, while pushing and kicking photographers. "The press
fabricated this case."
Security guards with sticks cleared the courthouse of up to 200 people.
"This case is ridiculous. All he did was to be in the bar when they
(police) rounded everyone up," the mother of one of the accused, an
English teacher, told Reuters. "He is really suffering in
The case follows a string of publicised incidents involving homosexuality
in the past year, including reports of gay soliciting on the Internet, which
prompted one paper to call for the death penalty for homosexuals.
The decision to try the men in a state security court under Egypts
emergency laws, which have been in place since 1981, technically to counter
Muslim militant violence, has raised eyebrows in Egypt and abroad.
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