Egypt Sends 14 Suspected Gay Men to Jail
April 22, 2003
An Egyptian court Thursday sentenced 14 men to jail for
one to three years on charges of “practicing debauchery,” a euphemism for
homosexual activities, the Associated Press reported.
They were also ordered to pay fines and remain under
police surveillance for one year after completing their jail terms, the AP
cited Helmi Al-Rawi, a lawyer who defended some of the accused in the
month-long trial, as saying.
Of the 14 suspected gay men, three will remain in jail
for three years, eight for two years, and three for one year. Two defendants
were acquitted. Their arrests came after Egyptian police bugged the phone line
of one the first defendants, who was arrested from a Cairo rented apartment in
Though homosexuality is prohibited in almost all Muslim
countries—punishable by death in Iran, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia—Egypt is
the only one were law enforcement actually spies upon men suspected of being
Homosexuality is not clearly defined as a crime in the
Egyptian penal code, but gays are charged under a variety of laws covering
obscenity, prostitution and public morality; violation of these laws is
punishable by jail terms.
On Monday, openly gay U.S. Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass.,
released a letter he wrote to the Egyptian ambassador to the United States,
Nabil Fahmy, saying he believed the ambassador lied to him last year when he
said that Egypt was not targeting and persecuting gay men.
Frank is urging national gay rights organizations to
lobby Congress to curb international assistance to Egypt. Frank said in his
latest letter to Fahmy, “Egypt must understand that it cannot continue to be
so oppressive towards people’s human rights and expect us to support these
additional (aid) requests.”
The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission
(IGLHRC) condemned Thursday’s convictions.
“It’s a bad day. The way the Egyptian government
persecutes gays is a slap in the face of human rights bodies,” IGLHRC’s
Dusty Araujo told the Gay.com/PlanetOut.com Network
David Smith of the Washington-based Human Rights
Campaign, which is focused on gay issues within the United States, called the
“It should not have happened,” Smith said.
Al Fatiha, the world’s first organization for openly
queer Muslims, said it would be urging human rights groups and the
international community to condemn Egypt for putting the men on trial because
of their sexual orientation.
Faisal Alam, founder of Al Fatiha, said on Friday
afternoon, “We do not know exactly what happened (on Thursday) and are
awaiting more information.”
May 11 will mark the second anniversary of the police
raid on the Queen Boat that brought into the limelight the plight of gay men
According to Al Fatiha, plans for the weekend of May
9-11, 2003, include protests in front of Egyptian consulates, embassies and
government buildings, and writing letters of protest to Egyptian government
officials and of support to the arrested gay men. Al Fatiha has also urged
fax, phone and e-mail blitzes to the Egyptian government.
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