Last edited: February 14, 2005

"Gay" Trial Told Egypt is No Corrupter of Men

Reuters, September 5, 2001

CAIRO — The prosecution pursued its case in an Egyptian court on Wednesday against 52 suspected homosexual men charged with immoral behaviour, saying Egypt would never become a den for "corruption of manhood."

"Egypt has not and will not be a den for the corruption of manhood and homosexual groups will not establish themselves here," prosecutor Ashraf Helal told the court, saying the defendants had used the Internet to promote homosexuality.

Police arrested the 52 men in May during a Nile River raid on a floating nightclub called the "Queen Boat" known locally as a popular gay venue. Some say they were seized from their homes.

All 52 face charges of "practising sexual immorality"—a local euphemism for homosexuality—with a maximum penalty of three years and a minimum fine of 300 Egyptian pounds ($70).

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.

"The first defendant confessed in the prosecutors’ office and this is recorded. I didn’t make it up. He confessed that he engaged in immorality last time in 1998 by kissing and touching, and in 1996 he went all the way," Helal told the court.

"Those men were practising sex with men without distinction," he added.

The case, which has received extensive coverage in the local as well as international media, has aroused strong passions in conservative Egypt where homosexuality is seen as taboo.

The defendants, dressed in white in large black cage, reacted angrily to television cameras, which the court allowed into the trial for the first time since the trial opened in July. Wednesday was the fourth session in the case.

The men have pleaded not guilty and their families say Egyptian media have condemned them as guilty in advance.

Defence lawyer Taher Abu Nasr told Reuters most of the men had denied to investigators they they practised homosexuality. Medical tests after their arrest showed that 37 of them had not engaged in homosexual sex.

Lawyers have argued in court that the case has no place in a state security court, where the men have no right of appeal.

They are being tried under Egypt’s emergency laws which have been in place since 1981 to counter Muslim militant violence.

Sentences from the state security court can only be overturned via a petition to President Hosni Mubarak.

The trial has drawn criticism from international rights groups which say the men are being tried for their sexual orientation and denied freedom of speech and association.

The hearings continue on September 19.

($1 = 4.26 Egyptian pounds)

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