Last edited: January 04, 2005

Amnesty International Expresses Concern at Guilty Verdict in Egypt

Calls Verdict Part of Government’s Attempt to Muzzle Civil Society

Amnesty International, March 17, 2003
Gwen Fitzgerald, (240) 462-9076
or Michelle Linder, (212) 633-4268

New York—Amnesty International USA today expressed grave concern about the “guilty” verdict for 21 of 50 defendants in their retrial for “habitual debauchery,” a charge the organization believes may have been made solely in connection with the men’s perceived or actual sexual orientation. In the retrial 29 defendants, who had been acquitted after a presidential review of the original proceedings, were again acquitted. “The guilty verdict in the retrial of the Cairo 50 is the latest outrage in a case that is nothing less than a miscarriage of justice,” stated Dr William F. Schulz, Executive Director of Amnesty International USA. “Now it is time to urge the Egyptian government to allow all members of civil society, including homosexuals, freedom from persecution and harassment.” The organization stresses that the targeting and harassment of gay men, as in the case of the Cairo 50, is part of the Egyptian government’s attempt to muzzle civil society. Islamists, non-violent political opponents, human rights defenders, journalists and leaders of religious minority groups have all come under increased scrutiny and harassment by the authorities. “The results of this case are a warning sign that the larger human rights movement in Egypt is under attack,” commented Geoffrey Mock, Amnesty International USA’s Egypt country specialist. “We need to urge the Egyptian government to end the harassment of civil society.”

Amnesty International USA’s consistent position has been that no one should be put on trial solely for charges related to their sexual orientation. “These men appear to be victims of a pattern of arrest and detention based on their alleged sexual orientation in clear violation of international human rights standards,” stated Michael Heflin, Director of Amnesty International USA’s OUTfront program. “The Egyptian government needs to do more to end the criminalization of consensual, private sexual relations.”

 The right to freedom from discrimination on the basis of sex, which includes sexual orientation, is recognized in international treaties, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Egypt is a State Party. While it has been stated that in Egypt “homosexuality was not a criminal offence in itself,” ongoing trials and imprisonment of people based on sexual orientation demonstrate that charges of “habitual debauchery” continue to be used to criminalize consensual homosexual relations in private.

The Egyptian authorities continue their campaign of harassment and Internet entrapment of gay men, often using Internet correspondence as evidence against them. Amnesty International USA considers those detained solely for their perceived or actual sexual orientation prisoners of conscience. Recent examples of such entrapment include:

  • On February 17, 2003, a court of appeals in Cairo upheld a sentence of 15-months’ imprisonment of prisoner of conscience Wissam Tawfiq Abyad, a 26-year-old Lebanese national, for “habitual debauchery”. On January 16 Tawfiq Abyad met a contact he had made on an Internet website for homosexuals, now believed to be a security officer or police informant. Electronic conversations were used against him as evidence.

  • Prisoner of conscience Zaki Sayid Zaki 'Abd al-Malak was detained in similar circumstances on January 25, 2002, in Cairo. On February 7 the Agouza Criminal Court sentenced him to three years imprisonment for ‘habitual debauchery,’ and the verdict was upheld on March 31. He was reportedly ill-treated in detention.

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