Last edited: January 03, 2005

Egypt Resumes Trial of 52 Suspected Homosexuals

Reuters, August 15, 2001

CAIRO—A controversial trial resumed in Cairo on Wednesday of 52 suspected homosexual men, accused of sexual immorality and forming a group which propagated extremist ideas and denigrated Islam.

The court case, which began in July, has prompted sharp criticism from international rights groups, which say the men are being tried for their possible sexual orientation and for exercising freedom of speech and association.

The defendants, who all plead not guilty, were detained in May in a police raid on a floating nightclub on the Nile known locally as a popular gay venue. If convicted, they could face five-year prison terms.

The court banned family members from attending Wednesday’s second trial session after chaotic scenes at the July 18 opening, when relatives screamed and punched photographers saying the press has scandalised the men.

State security prosecutors began their arguments against the men in Wednesday’s session.

Rights groups have criticised the decision to try the men in a state security court under Egypt’s emergency laws, which have been in place since 1981 to counter Muslim militant violence.

The case, which has received extensive coverage in the local as well as international media, has also aroused strong passions in conservative Egypt, where homosexuality is regarded as a taboo.

The men face charges including "forming a group which aims to exploit the Islamic religion to propagate extremist ideas" and "practising sexual immorality" — seen as a euphemism for homosexuality, which Egyptian law does not expressly prohibit.

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