Last edited: January 28, 2005

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 February.

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 gay.

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 Network

David Smith of the Washington-based Human Rights Campaign, which is focused on gay issues within the United States, called the sentencing “horrendous.”

“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 in Egypt.

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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