Trial of 50 Young Egyptians Accused of Homosexuality Reopens
Middle East Times,
July 26, 2002
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By Assad Abboud
CAIRO—Fifty young Egyptian men accused of
practicing homosexuality are back in court Saturday for a retrial ordered by
President Hosni Mubarak.
The trial is to open before the Abdine criminal court. The state security
court last November sentenced 23 of the men to prison, mostly for one to two
years, on charges of practicing homosexuality and acquitted 29 others.
Mubarak, empowered to cancel judgements and grant amnesties, ordered their
retrial in May, saying the case did not fall under the jurisdiction of the
state security court.
However, he upheld jail terms of the two leading defendants, Sherif Farahat
and Mahmud Ahmed Allam, to five and three years respectively after they were
accused of "scorning religion." Farahat was also charged with
"sexual practices contrary to Islam."
The retrial of the other 50 men was to open July 2 before the Abdine court
but was delayed when judge Mohamed Abdel Karim excused himself, saying he had
already judged the accused in their first trial in November.
On July 16, Karim announced the trial would re-open on July 27 before the
same court under judge Hassan al-Sayess, who will consider whether to convict
the men, mostly aged around 20, for "debauchery".
When the first trial opened on July 18, 2001, it sparked protest and anger
from Western gay rights movements and human rights organizations, notably in
Switzerland, France and the United States.
Pressure from Western officials, groups and leading figures continued after
the sentences, until Mubarak’s decision to throw out the verdicts and order
French President Jacques Chirac expressed his "concern" to
Mubarak in Paris in February and "wished, without wanting to interfere,
that the decision would be rescinded", while French singer Jean-Michel
Jarre delivered an open letter of protest to the Egyptian ambassador signed by
The petition, addressed to Mubarak, included the signatures of the actress
Catherine Deneuve and the philosopher Bernard Henri-Levy.
The London-based human rights group Amnesty International twice demanded
the release of the defendants, an investigation into allegations of torture
during their detention, and respect for sexual orientation.
And many Western diplomats in Cairo followed-up the trial closely and
attended the trial sessions in a show of support for the accused.
Homosexuality is not explicitly prohibited under Egyptian law which is
based on sharia, or Islamic, rulings, although numerous statutes condemn
conduct deemed to be an affront to public morality.
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