Last edited: December 06, 2004

Cairo 52 Closing Argument Rocks Court

Q, October 11, 2001
South Africa

The defence on Wednesday produced dramatic proof of police corruption, false evidence and incoherent lab reports, but fear that judicial independence of the court will be severely compromised in the current mood of hysteria in Egypt against the backdrop of Muslim extremist attacks in the country

Cairo correspondent

The trial of the 52 men accused of ‘deriding religion’ and ‘committing immoral acts’ resumed on Wednesday afternoon as the judge heard the last of the cases for the defense.

The lawyers argued previously that the cases should be dismissed on the grounds of false arrest, improper arrest procedures, falsified evidence and police intimidation.

In backing up their case the defense lawyers pointed out that four of the defendants had given false names and addresses to the police which were claimed to have been under police surveillance. The prosecution could not explain the inconsistency in facts.

One of the young lawyers, Fawzy El Haggan, dropped a bombshell at the end of the hearing by quoting a previous case with exactly the same details: trumped up charges, almost exactly the same date last year, by the same team of arresting officers, led by Taha el Embaby, the prime mover in the case.

Cairo police are evaluated each year in May and official reports on performances are issued in June. The previous case involving a hundred and fifty people last year was thrown out by a civil court judge for lack of evidence other than officers’ statements—the same as in this case.

El Haggan presented photocopies of six case-files from the previous case.

A forensic examination of the men which alleged anal intercourse—"proof of homosexuality"—was questioned by the defense for the fact that there were over four hundred errors in forensics department reports annually. The defense further argued that both the Cairo and Alexandria forensics departments were officially being investigated only a few days after the reports on this case were written.

The defense lawyers were optimistic that the judge would throw out this case for lack of evidence. Most of the lawyers however say that some of the defendants will be charged for being gay AND for having gay sex.

The lawyers remain concerned that the integrity of the judge might be in question, especially since the case is not being heard in a civil court, and is being heard under emergency regulations in Egypt, and that he may be under pressure "from higher up" to find the detainees guilty.

The case has been postponed until November 14 during which time the verdict will be delivered. And since the hearing did not take place in a civil court there will be no right to appeal.

One of the accused is a minor and has already been sentenced to three years’ imprisonment, while another three are on probation. The case of the minor will be heard in a juvenile court on 31 October 2001.

Meanwhile reports from Cairo say that arrests are continuing unabated and that a number of men have been arrested in Heliopolis, a suburb of Cairo.

Fifteen others have been arrested at a private party in Haram, also a Cairo suburb.

The Egyptian government has banned reports on the anti-gay arrests and the Egyptian press is not allowed to publish any news on the case or the arrests.

The news blackout followed an international outcry over the "Cairo 52" last month and letters of protest from the likes of US House of Representatives, Amnesty International and the Human Rights Watch.

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