Egyptian Court Condemns 21 Men
The Data Lounge,
March 17, 2003
CAIRO, Egypt—On the eve of a
major American-led military assault against Iraq, a criminal court in Egypt on
Saturday sentenced 21 men to three years in prison for practicing debauchery,
a government term used to prosecute gay and bisexual men.
The Egyptian government dramatically escalated a
months—old nationwide crackdown against its gay citizens in May 2001 when
Cairo police stormed a gay party held on a Nile river boat, arresting 52
onboard. The public trial of the men, televised nationally and trumpeted in
the state-controlled press, prompted widespread international condemnation.
Under intense pressure from international human rights
groups, gay civil rights activists and Western governments, Egyptian President
Hosni Mubarak last May called for a retrial and threw out the verdicts against
all but two of the 52 defendants in the Queen Boat case.
News that 21 of those men, briefly acquitted, have been
reconvicted and will now endure harsh jail terms has deeply outraged
international human rights groups.
"The Egyptian authorities must release immediately
and unconditionally anyone imprisoned for their actual or perceived sexual
orientation," Amnesty International said in a statement issued Thursday.
Three Egyptian human rights groups—the Egyptian
Initiative for Personal Rights, el Nadim Center for the Management and
Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence and Hisham Mubarak Center—issued a
statement Saturday expressing "their shock and anger at issuing tough
sentences against the 21 defendants."
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