Last edited: January 01, 2005

Egypt Sentences 23 of 52 Suspected Gays / Network, November 14, 2001

By Tom Musbach

SUMMARY: An Egyptian court issued a verdict in the "Cairo 52" trial, acquitting 29 of the men and sentencing 23 to jail for suspected homosexuality.

An Egyptian court on Wednesday issued a long-awaited verdict in the trial of the "Cairo 52," acquitting 29 of the men and sentencing 23 to jail for practicing "sexual immorality," a euphemism for homosexuality.

The 52 men had been arrested in May while attending a party on a floating nightclub on the Nile River, and the subsequent months of trial hearings generated sensational local media coverage and outcries from international human rights groups.

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

Sherif Farahat, 32, accused of being the leader of the group, received five years, due to additional charges of "forming a group which aims to exploit the Islamic religion to propagate extremist ideas" and "denigrating monotheistic religions," according to Reuters.

Of the other 22 found guilty, one received the maximum three years for "sexual immorality." Twenty received two years, and one was sentenced to one year.

The sentences cannot be appealed, due to emergency laws enacted after the assassination of Anwar Sadat in 1981. The jail sentences also involve hard labor, according to the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC).

Scott Long, program director for IGLHRC, called on Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to pardon the 23 men sentenced to jail. "The arrest and trial of these men has been a perversion of justice from day one," he added.

"We are very chilled by the hard labor sentences," said Surina Khan, IGLHRC’s executive director. "Having received numerous testimonies of beatings and abuse of the Cairo 52 while in detention, we can only imagine what awaits them now."

At Wednesday’s hearing, the accused stood in a large iron cage, and few others were allowed in the courtroom. Family members, friends and journalists crowded in a near-riot outside the chamber, according to news reports.

An Egyptian government official defended the proceedings in a statement to Reuters: "We have to judge every society by its norms. If homosexuality is accepted in other societies, that’s their business. … In this society, homosexuality is a shameful act."

There has been no word on whether Amnesty International and gay groups Al Fatiha and might call for a tourist boycott of Egypt, as they had hinted in the event of a "guilty" verdict.

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