Last edited: February 14, 2005

Frank Attacks Bush’s Silence on Egypt Trial, December 24, 2001

By Paul Johnson

SUMMARY: Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., has criticized the Bush administration for not pressing Egypt on its persecution of gays.

WASHINGTON—Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., has criticized the Bush administration for not pressing Egypt on its persecution of gays.

During debate in the House of Representatives on the foreign aid package for Egypt, the gay congressman warned that cooperation between Egypt and the United States on many issues of mutual concern may be negatively impacted if Egypt’s persecution and mistreatment of gays continues.

Last May, 52 men were arrested in a gay club in Cairo on suspicion of engaging in homosexual behavior. The Egyptian government prosecuted the men on charges of "habitual debauchery" and "contempt of religion" under the country’s Emergency Law, which is intended to crack down on terrorist groups and other threats to national security.

The Foreign Operations Appropriations bill for fiscal year 2002 provides $1.3 billion in military assistance and $655 million in economic assistance to Egypt.

During debate on the measure, Frank stated in part, "The Egyptian government ought to understand that it cannot with impunity continue to be so oppressive toward people’s human rights, and in particular, its most recent outbreak of severe, unjustified, blatant prejudice, jailing men for no good reason whatsoever. They cannot continue to do that and not have it have an effect on how people view Egypt here and how people deal with Egypt. I hope Egypt will once again play a more active, constructive role in the Middle East."

Last August, before the trials of these men began, Rep. Frank organized a letter to Egyptian President Mubarak, which was signed by 35 members of the House of Representatives, calling the arrest and prosecution of these men on the basis of their perceived sexual orientation indefensible.

The letter stated in part, "As you know, Egypt is the second largest recipient of U.S. foreign assistance. We note that this assistance comes from the people of the United States, including a great number of taxpayers who are gay and lesbian, and it is approved by members of Congress, many of whom are fully supportive of the right of gay and lesbian people to be free from discrimination and violence. Given this, it is very troubling for us to hear that these Egyptian men are not only facing trial and possible jail sentences, but also may have been mistreated, beaten or tortured while in detention."

Since then, 23 of these men were sentenced to hard labor prison terms of between one and five years, and at least four more were arrested and are currently in detention.

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