Egypt Uses Web to Snare Suspected Gays
March 27, 2003
By Tom Musbach, Gay.com / PlanetOut.com 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
“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
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
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