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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, April 11 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 15
Egypt sends four Gay men to prison
Section One
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Egypt sends four Gay men to prison

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

An Egyptian court has sentenced four men to prison terms for 'habitual debauchery' - code for being Gay in a country where same-sex relations are legal, but harshly discouraged.

The men were accused of participating in 'deviant' sex parties, dressing in women's clothes, and wearing make-up. Three defendants were given prison sentences of eight years, and the fourth was sentenced to three years.

The men were reportedly arrested in a private apartment in Nasr city within the last month, although Egyptian activists and court papers did not list an exact date of arrest.

An Egyptian LGBT activist told BuzzFeed blog that the men had attended a party in an apartment that doubled as a meeting point for the local LGBT community when they were arrested.

'Police have been increasingly targeting us in areas in which we were previous safe,' said the activist, identified only as Ahmed. 'These areas that we could previously go to and gather and police would turn the other way, now they are coming to arrest us there.

'There have been nearly a dozen cases of arrest in the last few months and we aren't sure when this arrest happened,' Ahmed added. 'There are arrests we don't even hear about, it seems police are actively searching for gay men to arrest.'

Egyptian men who are accused of being Gay are often forced to undergo brutally intrusive medical tests to establish if they are 'habitual' Gays. Human rights groups like Amnesty International have condemned the practice as abusive.

Egyptian human rights activists told BBC News that the severe sentences the four Gay men received on April 7 were part of an ongoing crackdown on personal freedoms. Their convictions came a day after another court in Cairo upheld three-year prison terms imposed on three pro-democracy activists convicted of organizing an unauthorized protest.

The U.S.-based Human Rights First group said it was 'alarmed and disappointed' at the verdicts handed down in the most recent case.

'We are alarmed and disappointed to hear of the verdict convicting these men based on their sexual orientation and identity,' said Human Rights First's Shawn Gaylord. 'Egypt is a bellwether state in the Arab region; what happens in Egypt sets a trend for developments throughout the Arab world.

'The United States has a long-standing, close and complex relationship with Egypt, and it must use its leverage to protest the expansion of the crackdown on political dissent and now LGBT people. We urge the Obama administration to immediately condemn this ruling and to calculate these latest sentences in its assessment of how to take concrete steps to advance human rights and the rule of law in Egypt. When President Obama spoke in Cairo in 2009 about protecting 'the principles of justice and progress; tolerance and dignity of all human beings' he certainly meant all Egyptians, including LGBT people.'

Since the ousting of President Mohammed Morsi in July 2013 there has been a rise in the number of arrests of people based on their sexual orientation, the group added.

The latest case calls to mind a mass anti-Gay trial in 2001, in which 52 men were accused of 'debauchery' and other offences under Egyptian law. Twenty-three of the men were sentenced to up to five years in jail with hard labor, drawing international condemnation.

Between 2001 and 2004, Hosni Mubarak's regime launched a crackdown on homosexual conduct, arresting and torturing thousands of people. Now that anti-Gay campaign seems set to be repeated.

In August 2012, Egyptian police arrested a man for leading a 'gay sex network,' and later that year vigilantes beat and detained four young men who were accused of having sex in a car. The vigilantes got off, and the four young men were arrested.

In October of last year, a group of 14 men were arrested in the Cairo suburb of al Marg in a highly publicized incident. They were charged with participating in drug-fueled sex parties.

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