Egypt Gay Trial Delayed Again
July 27, 2002
By Jon ben Asher
Cairo—The new trial for fifty young Egyptian men
accused of gay crimes was postponed moments after it began Friday, when
defence lawyers said they needed more time to prepare.
The retrial had been ordered by President Hosni Mubarak.
23 of the men had been convicted of "debauchery" and the others
found not guilty in a trial before a state security court that ended last
November. The court was set up to deal with terrorism and other crimes against
Mubarak however upheld the prison verdicts against the two main defendants
who ran the club. Sherif Farahat and Mahmud Ahmed Allam were sentenced to five
and three years respectively for "scorning religion." Farahat was
also charged with "sexual practices contrary to Islam."
The men had all been arrested in May 2001 in a gay club on a Nile
The new trial was to have begun last month but the judge recused himself on
the grounds he had officiated at the original trial. Mubarak ordered the trial
to be held in a criminal court saying the case did not fall under the
jurisdiction of the State Security Court.
None of the defendants were in court Friday as presiding judge Hassan al-Sayess
heard lawyers arguments. al-Sayess set a trial date of September 7 to begin
Mubarak’s government had been under pressure from western countries and
international civil rights groups to pardon all those originally arrested.
A group of American congressmen, led by Rep. Barney Frank (D Mass) had sent
a series of strongly worded letters to the Egyptian government and in
February, 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that the decision would be rescinded".
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.
The Canadian government has sent a diplomat from its Cairo embassy to
monitor the trial.
Scott Long, of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission
remains sceptical. Long said it is a travesty of justice to retry the men
already found not guilty.
"But dragging the convicted men into the humiliation of a new trial—while
placing 29 acquitted men under the renewed threat of imprisonment—can only
sully that image further."
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