Egyptian Men on Trial for Gay Party
Associated Press, July 18, 2001
By Mariam Fam
CAIRO, EgyptProtesting and sobbing, 52 men
arrested at an alleged gay gathering pleaded innocent Wednesday at the opening
of a case that has shocked conservative Egypt and raised human rights
Occupying one side of the packed courtroom, the menhandcuffed and
dressed in white T-shirts and trousersshouted as the prosecutor read the
charges. Two were accused of religious offenses and others with debauchery and
having gay sex. Some entered the courtroom covering their faces with towels to
hide from cameras.
The defendants were arrested May 11 on a Nile river boat restaurant. Police
originally said they were having a gay sex party, but prosecutors later
changed tack and said the group was meeting with a self-styled preacher.
The trial has caused a storm in Egypt, where homosexuality is seen as a
sin. International human rights groups have protested the arrests.
Egyptian law does not explicitly refer to homosexuality, but a wide range
of laws covering obscenity and public morality are punishable by jail terms.
Prosecutor Ashraf Hilal told the state security court that Sherif Farahat
and Mahmoud Ahmed Allam are charged with contempt of religion, falsely
interpreting the Quran and exploiting Islam to promote deviant ideas. They
were also charged with immoral behavior.
Contempt of religion is punishable by up to five years in jail. The
debauchery offense carries a maximum prison sentence of three years.
After Wednesdays hearing, the case was adjourned until August 15.
"We only want mercy," cried one defendant from the courtroom
dock, over the din of wailing family members. "Weve been detained
without any evidence against us," yelled another.
Many of the defendants claimed they were not on the boat during the police
Khadiga Ramadanmother of defendant Abdel Moeiti Salahsaid she
first learned about charges against her son from newspapers. "By God, he
is not involved in this," she said.
The veiled Ramadan said her son was taken off the street by police and
detained for 20 days before his family discovered where he was.
Many homosexuals say they have grown scared since the boat raid. Some
charge local human rights groups have distanced themselves from the case.
[Home] [World] [Egypt]