Immorality Trial Reconvenes in Egypt
Reuters, August 29, 2001
By Andrew Hammond
SUMMARY: Lawyers for 52 suspected gay men told an Egyptian judge the case
had no place in a court where they had no right of appeal.
CAIRO Lawyers for 52 suspected homosexual men
charged with immoral behavior told an Egyptian judge on Wednesday the case had
no place in a state security court where they had no right of appeal.
Police arrested the men in May during a Nile River raid on a floating
nightclub called the "Queen Boat," known locally as a popular gay
"Emergency State Security Courts have only one level of litigation.
There is no appeal. It is illegitimate to deprive these people of the right to
take further legal action," attorney Taher Abu Nasr told the court.
The trial, in its third session since starting in July, has drawn the
criticism of international rights groups which say the men are being tried for
their sexual orientation and denied freedom of speech and association.
Security forces with batons kept back angry family members as the men were
led to the courtroom and into a large black cage for defendants. Some hid
their faces and looked traumatized.
One of five Western diplomats at the trial told Reuters later: "We are
concerned about the case, and we attach great importance to freedom of sexual
The case, which has received extensive coverage in the local as well as
international media, has aroused strong passions in conservative Egypt.
"Its not permitted. Its not a matter of personal choice, as it
is in some other Western communities," an official source told Reuters.
Defendants told reporters that support by gay rights groups was unwelcome.
"It will only make things worse," one said.
Two face additional charges
On Wednesday lawyers said 50 of the defendants should be tried in an
ordinary civilian court.
All 52, who pleaded not guilty, face charges of "practicing sexual
immorality" seen locally as a euphemism for homosexuality with a
maximum penalty of three years and a minimum fine of 300 Egyptian pounds
But 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.
Prosecutor Ashraf Helal told the court it is because of those more serious
charges that the men were being tried in a state security court under Egypts
The laws have been in place since 1981 to counter Muslim militant violence
and mean sentences can only be overturned via a petition to President Hosni
Helal said that one of the main defendants "met with his followers
weekly on a tourist boat and they engaged in wanton acts with each
But lawyers argued there was no connection between the 50 men facing the
lesser charges and the first two defendants.
They said evidence of 893 photos, which prosecutors said showed the men in
indecent positions, bolstered their argument, since only up to five of the
accused were seen in the pictures.
"There is no connection between the crime allegedly committed by the
first two and other 50 ... Sherif (the first defendant) said himself during
interrogation that he only knows two of the others," said lawyer Osama
Defendants told reporters through the cage that they had been whipped by
police when first arrested.
"They whipped us all to be quiet and then forced us all to say that we
were gay," one said.
The case continues on Sept. 5.
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