Cairo Times, July 26, 2001
Volume 5, Issue 21
By Dalia Dabbous
The chaotic opening of the trial of the 52 defendants in the Queen Boat
trial ended before it began
It was a scene that would remain in the minds of those who were present at
the Abdeen State Security Court on July 15 for a long time.
On one side of the bleak, stuffy, courthouse sat 52 men allegedly arrested
on the Queen Boat on 11 May, ranging in age from late teens to late 40s,
dressed in prison garb-white t-shirts and white cotton pants. Many were
sobbing and wailing, covering their faces from photographers with tissues or
pieces of cloth. Others sat passively with looks of disbelief on their faces.
On the other side of the court, relatives, reporters, and lawyers squeezed
into any space they could find, and many relatives could not make it into the
courtroom. As cameras started clicking, relatives and defendants went into an
uproar, screaming obscenities at the press. One of the defendants collapsed in
a fit of screaming.
"Why have they done this to our youth? Even if he comes out not
guilty, they have tarnished his reputation forever," one woman cried of
her brother, a doctor.
After more than 15 minutes of trying to bring order to the court, the names
of all of the defendants were called out to make sure each was present and
prosecutor Ashraf Hilal stated the charges. The two main defendants, Sherif
Farahat and Mahmoud Ahmad Allam, stand accused of a range of religious
offenses including "exploiting the Islamic religion to spread deviant
ideas, contempt of religion, and falsely interpreting verses of the Holy Quran,"
as well as practicing gay sex "as part of the groups rituals."
The remaining defendants were charged with practicing gay sex. Such
offenses can carry up to five years in prison. Although homosexuality is not
specifically referred to in Egyptian law, there are regulations regarding
"offenses against public morals and sensibilities" that are being
applied in this case.
As soon as the charges were heard, the defendants went into an uproar,
pleading their innocence. "That never happened! This is unjust,"
screamed one of the defendants as many started to recite the shihada in
Outside the court, a furious Adel Shindy, lawyer for two defendants,
complained to reporters that the court did not even bother to hear the defenses
requests, and adjourned the trial until 15 August. "We only needed one
week to prepare the case. One month will really hurt the defendants," he
said, brushing away a photographer. "We dont want to take photos. We
are asking for peoples rights," he shouted.
Although many of the defendants face similar charges, theres no group
defense planned and a small tribe of defense lawyers is involved.
Farahats lawyer, Farid Al Dib, told reporters that his client was
"psychologically unbalanced," and had a passion for knowing each and
every location of every churches and synagogue in Egypt, which in his view,
reflected a troubled individual.
Many family members and defendants claimed that the arrests were made
without any evidence although Hilal stated that investigations into the case
have been ongoing since 1996.
"My brother wasnt even on this boat," Amal Ibrahim Muhammad
told the Cairo Times. Muhammad explained that her brother, Hatem
Ibrahim, 28, an Alexandrian, was visiting a close friend in Cairo, Amir Al
Olaly, also arrested in the case. "They were taking a walk on the
Corniche with some friends, including two females, when police became
suspicious of my brothers friend due to his strong build, and arrested
him." According to Muhammad, when Ibrahim went with his friend to find
out why he was being arrested, they arrested him as well.
In an interview with the Cairo Times, Taher Abou Nasr, a lawyer from the
Hisham Mubarak Law Center who represents four of the defendants, said the
various defense teams would receive detailed copies of the investigations this
week. Abou Nasr criticized the validity of both the police investigation
methods and the medical examination each defendant underwent to determine if
he had engaged in anal sex.
The defendants have complained of torture and forced confessions.
"They threatened to beat him if he did not sign his name under a
statement [confessing to the charges]," Muhammad said.
One defendant in the courtroom cell cried out, "We have gone through
Although many human rights groups have condemned the case, others have
distanced themselves for fear of being attacked. Organizations such as Amnesty
International have come under attack for their condemnation of the case. In a
statement, Amnesty International said that it "believes that the
vilification and persecution of persons for their sexuality violate the most
fundamental principles of international human rights law."
Rose Al Youssef magazine fired back on 21 June, saying that "Amnesty
International surprised everybody by its statement in defending a group of
perverts... Amnesty International considered the process of legally punishing
these people as an act against human rights!"
Muhammad, who says she is from a deeply religious family, is certain of her
brothers innocence but says that if she was even one percent unsure of it,
she would accept his punishment, reflecting the view of many Egyptians who
frown on homosexuality.
Media coverage of this incident by Egyptian newspapers has also fueled
negative sentiments towards the defendants. It has centered on the alleged
sexual orientation of the men, showing doctored internet pictures of men
kissing or in bed together, and in some cases, detailed information pertaining
to the men has been published in the press.
Abou Nasr sees this as an attempt by the state "to pull the ears"
of homosexuals and set an example to the gay community in Egypt. If that is
this the case, then it has probably worked since many gays have reportedly
left Egypt following the raid, and gay men have been advising each other to
avoid going to gay hang outs for fear of being arrested.
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