Last edited: December 08, 2004

U.S. Rights Group Condemns Egypt "Gay" Convictions

Reuters, November 15, 2001

CAIRO—A U.S.-based human rights group has condemned the convictions of 23 Egyptian men on charges including "practising sexual immorality," a local euphemism for homosexuality.

New York-based Human Rights Watch said in a statement sent to Reuters on Thursday that the trial was "a miscarriage of justice" and criticised the government’s use of state security courts that were more susceptible to government influence.

A state security court on Wednesday sentenced one man, Sherif Farahat, to five years in jail for "forming a group which aims to exploit the Islamic religion to propagate extremist ideas" and "denigrating monotheistic religions," as well as "practising sexual immorality."

The other 22 men received between one and three years, but a further 29 men were acquitted.

Homosexuality is regarded as taboo in Egypt, but not expressly prohibited by law.

"The government prosecuted these men in an unfair trial, apparently in order to distract public attention from their own unpopular policies, and to placate conservative elements in Egyptian society," said Joe Stork, Washington director of the Middle East and North Africa division of Human Rights Watch.

The men were tried under Egypt’s emergency laws, which allow no right of appeal and whose verdicts can only be overturned through a petition to President Hosni Mubarak.

Other rights groups and Western diplomats have also condemned the trial.

A French Foreign Ministry spokesman said on Thursday France was concerned by the sentencing.

"We hope that measures of clemency will intervene in their favour," Bernard Valero told a daily briefing of journalists, adding that France would "continue to follow this case closely." Stork criticised the Egyptian government’s increasing use of state security courts and military courts, whose verdicts are more susceptible to government influence.

"The other casualty of this miscarriage of justice is the further undermining of Egypt’s independent judiciary," he was quoted as saying in the statement.

The men were arrested in May after a raid on a floating night-club called the Queen Boat, known locally as a popular gay venue. Others were arrested elsewhere on the same evening.

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