Egypt Resumes Trial of Immoral Men
Reuters, August 15, 2001
By Andrew Hammond
CAIRO A controversial trial resumed in Cairo on
Wednesday of 52 suspected homosexual men accused of sexual immorality and
forming a group that 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
Many of the defendants, who all plead not guilty, cried as they protested
their innocence to the judge.
Outside the courtroom, the defendants families attacked journalists
covering the case, accusing them of bringing shame to their loved ones.
The court had barred relatives from the proceedings after they verbally and
physically attacked photographers at the opening session on July 18, saying
the press had defamed the men.
"The media has condemned the accused through a savage campaign against
them before they have been sentenced," Farid al-Dib, one of 50 defense
lawyers, told the court.
Case arouses strong passions
The case, which has received extensive coverage in the local and
international media, has aroused strong passions in conservative Egypt, where
homosexuality is taboo but is not expressly prohibited by law.
Egyptian newspapers routinely refer to the case as "the homosexual
trial," even though homosexuality does not appear on the charge sheet.
Abroad, demonstrators protested against the trial in 11 cities including
Geneva, where 80 activists gathered holding banners that read, "Human
rights in Egypt Liberate 52 gays."
"We just wanted to highlight the problem," said organizer Yves de
Matteis of the Swiss gay rights organization Pink Cross.
The men were detained in May in a police raid on a floating nightclub on
the Nile called the "Queen Boat" and known locally as a popular gay
The men face charges of "practicing sexual immorality" a
local euphemism for homosexuality with a maximum penalty of three years.
The two main defendants face additional charges of "forming a group
which aims to exploit the Islamic religion to propagate extremist ideas"
and "denigrating monotheistic religions," which carry a maximum
sentence of five years in prison.
On Wednesday, the judge released evidence against the 52, including 893
photographs which prosecutors say show them in indecent positions, for lawyers
to review before the third session on August 29.
The evidence gathered against the defendants also included videocassettes
and an array of books including several on Zionism. The prosecution has not
explained the link between the evidence and the charges.
International rights groups have criticized the decision to try the men in
a state security court under Egypts emergency laws, which have been in
place since 1981 to counter Muslim militant violence.
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