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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, August 15 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 33
Lebanese police arrest 27 in raid on Beirut bathhouse
Section One
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Lebanese police arrest 27 in raid on Beirut bathhouse

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Police in Beirut, Lebanon have arrested 27 men in a raid on a bathhouse said to be a hook-up site for Gay men.

The British newspaper Gay Star News said it had received the report from LGBT organizations in Lebanon.

'The incident came to our attention on Monday night (11 August) and we initiated an investigation of the reasons behind the raid and the status of the detained,' Gay Star News quoted a statement from the groups.

'We were able to confirm the arrest of 27 men who were present at the venue.

'Among the arrested men were the owner of the Hammam [bathhouse], the employees and several clients. All the men were still held in custody at Hbeish police station at the time this press release was written, four days following their arrest.

'According to the information that Col. Haddad provided us with (and which we cannot confirm beyond his words), Hbeish personnel investigated the detainees and their files have been transferred to the General Prosecutor awaiting charges.'

According to Gay Star News, the groups issuing the statement included Helem, Arab Foundation for Freedom and Equality (AFE), M-Coalition, Marsa Sexual Health Clinic, and the Lebanese Medical Association for Sexual Health (LebMASH).

The raid took place on August 9 and was carried out by the Lebanese Internal Security Forces, or national police.

The target was the privately-owned Agha Hammam baths in the Hamra-Concord area in central Beirut.

According to Colonel Tony Haddad from the Hbeish police station, the raid followed the arrest of an individual who identified the bathhouse as a hook-up venue for Gay men.

According to Lebanese activists, Lebanese General Prosecutor Bilal Dinnawi said he is not interested in charging the detainees under article 534, the law which criminalizes Gay sex, but he may charge them with public indecency, under article 521 of the penal code.

In January, a Lebanese judge ruled that Article 534 is unenforceable and cannot be used against Gays because Gay sex does not 'contradict the laws of nature' as stated in the law. His ruling has not been taken as generally applicable, however.

Activists said they were able to contact the arrested men.

'We made contact with the detainees who expressed their discomfort and confusion regarding the process of the investigation and the charges,' the Lebanese groups said.

'It has also come to our attention that at the time of the raid no public sexual act was taking place at Agha Hammam, and the investigation at the police station revolved mainly around the detainees' alleged (homo)sexuality.

'We denounce this incident as a case of homophobic practice that aims to police the sexual rights and liberties of the individuals involved and we call on the General Prosecutor and Hbeish police station to respect the dignity of the detainees and their rights to their (sexual) bodies.

'We also specifically denounce the use or the implication of use of anal tests and we want to stress the physical and mental harm that such treatment could cause.

'We call for the immediate release of all the detainees from under charges which violate their sexual and bodily rights and integrity. We will follow up on the cases as needed.'

Anal probes have been used in Lebanon and other Arab countries to torture and humiliate men accused of being Gay. The practice is now illegal in Lebanon, and Colonel Haddad assured local activists that police had not used it on the detainees. None were subjected to any physical or verbal violence or abuse, the colonel added.

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