Western Observers at Egyptian Trial
CAIRO The trial of 52 Egyptians accused of having
gay sex resumed in the state security court here Wednesday, attended by
observers from a number of Western embassies, an AFP correspondent witnessed.
Egyptian human rights groups, which have recently leveled criticism in the
press against homosexual practices, did not send observers, as in previous
sessions of the trial.
However, representatives from the US, Canadian, Belgian, Danish and Swiss
embassies were present.
A Canadian diplomat and lawyer, Jean-Philippe Cachian, told AFP "we
were sent by our embassies as observers, but (came) without invitation."
The defendants, mostly in their 20s, were arrested May 11 on a Nile
riverboat nightclub. The court, whose verdict cannot be appealed, could
sentence them to as much as five years in prison if convicted.
The two main defendants stand accused of "exploiting the Islamic
religion to spread extremist ideas" as well as practicing gay sex
"as part of the groups rituals in front of the remaining defendants
and others with the aim of insulting the heavenly religions and sparking civil
The remaining 50 defendants are charged with "practicing debauchery
The judge said at the end of the session that the trial would resume on
The practice of homosexuality is not explicitly prohibited under Egyptian
law, which is based on Islamic, or sharia, law. However, numerous statutes
sanction conduct deemed to be a scandal to public morality.
Speaking for the prosecution Wednesday, Ashraf Helal said "the law
empowers the state security court to examine this case because it involves a
charge of contempt for religion and, therefore, affects society. "The
practice of debauchery is an example of contempt for religions," Helal
Farid al-Dib, one of the defense lawyers, claimed to have medical reports
on 37 of the defendants are not homosexuals. He did not provide details.
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