Last edited: December 08, 2004

Western Observers at Egyptian Trial

AFP, August 29, 2001

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 group’s rituals in front of the remaining defendants and others with the aim of insulting the heavenly religions and sparking civil strife."

The remaining 50 defendants are charged with "practicing debauchery with men."

The judge said at the end of the session that the trial would resume on September 5.

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 argued.

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.

[Home] [World] [Egypt]