Last edited: February 14, 2005

Gay Trial Ends in Egypt

The Advocate, November 15, 2001 

An Egyptian court convicted two defendants accused of leading a sex ring of 52 gay men, sentencing one to five years in prison and the other to three years in a case that touched on a subject considered highly taboo. Twenty-nine of the accused were acquitted Wednesday, prompting ululations of joy from family members who had staunchly denied the charges and accused the Egyptian media of sensationalizing the trial. Twenty other defendants were sentenced to two years’ imprisonment each for debauchery, according to the official verdict. One defendant received one year in prison for debauchery.

The four-month trial shocked Egypt, a conservative nation in which homosexuality is seen as a shameful sin. Relatives of the accused often jostled journalists covering the trial, accusing them of defaming the defendants. The accused entered the courtroom Wednesday wearing white prison uniforms and hiding their faces behind masks and handkerchiefs. There were chaotic scenes outside the courthouse before the verdicts were announced. Only a few people had been allowed into the courtroom. Police wielding sticks drove back a crowd of about 200 relatives, lawyers, journalists, and passersby and closed the courthouse doors. As news of the sentences came in bits and pieces from people leaving the court, relatives ran to the courthouse windows and shouted requests for information on the verdicts. One elderly woman joyfully distributed sweets and soft drinks, saying she had heard her son was among those acquitted.

Inside the courtroom the verdicts were met by angry shouts from the defendants crowded into a fenced-in dock. The presiding judge continued to read his decision, ignoring the shouts from relatives who chanted, "We will appeal to God! He is our defender!" The two alleged ringleaders, Sherif Farahat and Mahmoud Ahmed Allam, faced multiple charges. Farahat received five years for debauchery, contempt of religion, falsely interpreting the Koran, and exploiting Islam to promote deviant ideas. Allam received three years in prison on the religious charges but was acquitted of debauchery. Earlier Wednesday a director of the U.S.-based International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, Scott Long, condemned the verdicts as "a travesty" of justice.

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