Last edited: February 14, 2005

Accused Gay Egyptian Men Sentenced

Associated Press, November 14, 2001

By Sarah El-Deeb

CAIRO, Egypt—Twenty-three Egyptian men accused of being gay were sentenced Wednesday to jail terms from one to five years in a trial that human rights groups have denounced as persecution of people’s sexual orientation.

Another 29 men also in the case were acquitted, prompting cries of joy from relatives who had denied the charges and accused the Egyptian media during the four-month trial of sensationalism and destroying the young men’s reputations.

There were chaotic scenes outside the courthouse before the verdicts were announced. Only a few people had been allowed into the courtroom, and police wielding sticks drove back a crowd of about 200 relatives, lawyers, journalists and passers-by outside.

When news of the sentences came in bits and pieces from people leaving the court, one elderly woman joyfully distributed sweets and soft drinks, saying she had heard her son was among those acquitted.

The men were put to trial after police raided a Nile boat restaurant in May and accused them of taking part in a gay sex party. Egyptian law does not explicitly refer to homosexuality, and prosecutors leveled charges including debauchery and contempt of religion.

Sherif Farahat received the longest sentence—five years for debauchery, contempt of religion, falsely interpreting the Quran and exploiting Islam to promote deviant ideas. Mahmoud Ahmed Allam received three years on the religious charges, but was acquitted of debauchery.

Twenty others were sentenced to two years and one man was sentenced to one year.

"Egypt will not be used for the defamation of manhood and will not be a hub for gay communities," prosecutor Ashraf Hilal told the court in September.

The accused entered the courtroom Wednesday wearing white prison uniforms and hiding their faces behind masks and handkerchiefs.

Local and international human rights groups criticized the trial. Amnesty International accused Egypt of prosecuting people for their sexual orientation and said the type of court, the Emergency State Security Court, was not independent.

Earlier Wednesday, a director of the U.S.-based International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, Scott Long, said the government was manipulating religion in its prosecution of the accused.

"Fifty-two lives, 52 reputations and 52 human beings are being damaged. This is what is brutal about this," Long said.

Among those arrested on the Nile boat was a teen-ager who had already been sentenced to three years’ in prison for homosexuality. The boy, who is 15 according to court papers but 16 according to Amnesty, was tried separately and is appealing the verdict in a juvenile court.

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