Last edited: February 14, 2005

Egypt Uses Web to Snare Suspected Gays, March 27, 2003

By Tom Musbach, / Network

 A day after the U.S. Supreme Court began deliberating about decriminalizing gay sex between consenting adults, Egypt continues to aggressively seek—often through Internet chat rooms—and punish men who are suspected of being gay.

On Jan. 16, a Lebanese man named Wissam Abyad was entrapped on a gay Web site by an undercover agent posing as a Spaniard who was new to Cairo and looking for friends. Abyad, 26, agreed to meet the man and was then arrested, charged with “debauchery,” advertising “against public morals” and inciting others to debauchery. He was sentenced to 15 months in prison.

The incident is one of several during recent months in what Human Rights Watch (HRW) has called an “increasingly harsh campaign of entrapment and arrest of men solely on the basis of alleged consensual homosexual conduct.”

“The police are raiding private homes and using the Internet to entrap men on trumped-up charges of ‘debauchery,’” said Joe Stork, the Middle East/North Africa director for HRW. “People looking for support and community find a prison cell.”

Abyad’s partner, who requested anonymity, said via e-mail that he knows of three other men who were similarly entrapped since Abyad’s arrest, as well as 13 more who were arrested in private homes. The trial of those 13 men began on Thursday.

“This is truly a witch hunt,” Abyad’s partner said.

According to Abyad’s partner, Abyad refused meetings twice after chatting via Gaydar with the agent posing as the lonely Spaniard, but he finally “felt sorry for him” and agreed to meet for lunch. When he arrived at the arranged meeting spot, a McDonald’s restaurant, four undercover cops arrested him.

Last year, a 23-year-old Egyptian man was sentenced to three years in prison after he tried to meet another man he had chatted with online.

The recent arrests follow the nearly two-year ordeal of 52 suspected gay men who were arrested in May 2001 on a floating nightclub, tried over several months under harsh and humiliating circumstances and then retried in a different court. Two weeks ago, the retrial ended with three-year jail sentences imposed on 21 of the men; 29 were acquitted. (The two “leaders” were sentenced last year and not subjected to retrial.)

Abyad’s case was recently defeated in an appeals court. He and his partner—who have lived together in Cairo for two years—are working on an appeal to Egypt’s highest court.

Earlier this week, Abyad was transferred from the crowded appeals jail, where he lived in a cement room without running water or a toilet. Abyad’s partner has not yet been able to visit Abyad in the new prison north of Cairo, which is supposedly for foreign prisoners. He said Abyad had not been harmed with physical violence in prison.

Amnesty International, which has spoken out against Egypt’s treatment of suspected homosexuals, declared Abyad a “prisoner of conscience.”

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