Last edited: November 08, 2003

Amnesty International Welcomes Acquittal of Egyptian Men Imprisoned for ‘Debauchery,’ Urges Immediate Release of Others

Amnesty International USA, July 22, 2003
322 Eighth Ave., New York, NY 10001
Contact: Wende Gozan 212/633-4247 or Michael Heflin at 212/633-4280

New York—Amnesty International today welcomed the acquittal of 11 gay men imprisoned for “debauchery” in Egypt and urged the Egyptian government to immediately and unconditionally release all others who are incarcerated because of their sexual orientation. Amnesty International considers these men, and others who face lengthy sentences based solely on their sexual orientation, to be prisoners of conscience and is advocating for their release.

“While we’re pleased that these men have been acquitted, it is disturbing that they were released on a legal technicality and only after enduring a degrading and homophobic lecture from the presiding judge,” said Michael Heflin, Director of Amnesty International USA’s (AIUSA’s) OUTfront program. “There was no justification for these arrests in the first place. The charge of ‘debauchery’ is a flimsy attempt to disguise the fact that authorities are targeting men for their sexual orientation, despite the fact that homosexuality is not a crime in Egypt.”

The 11 men had been arrested in sting operations and the Giza criminal court convicted them in April. One of the men had been entrapped through an Internet dating site, and another when his phone was bugged. The trial was the latest in a series of high-profile cases in which police targeted men that were gay or perceived to be gay.

Amnesty International is also concerned that the arrests do not merely represent the targeting of gay men. “The fight for homosexual rights is an essential aspect of human rights work in Egypt at large,” said Geoffrey Mock, Egypt Country Specialist for AIUSA. “The targeting of homosexuals is just part of a larger crackdown on human rights activists, religious minority groups, political opponents, journalists and others as the Egyptian government attempts to muzzle civil society. The international effort to support the imprisoned gay men contributes to an overall effort to end the unfair trials and unjust laws that threaten all Egyptians.”

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