Egyptian court opens trial of 26 men on charges of suspected homosexuality

Court of Justice in Cairo.

Court of Justice in Cairo.

CAIRO — An Egyptian court on Sunday tried 26 men on charges connected to their suspected homosexuality after they were arrested in a much publicized raid on a Cairo bathhouse.

Court of Justice in Cairo.

Court of Justice in Cairo.

The handcuffed defendants, many of them crying, arrived in court with their heads bowed as police pushed them inside a metal cage, reports AFP.

The accused were arrested on December 7 in a much publicized late night raid on a hammam (bath house) in central Cairo.

Five of the defendants — the owner of the bathhouse and four staff members — are on trial for facilitating debauchery in exchange for money. The 21 others are charged with practicing debauchery and “indecent public acts.”

The raid is part of an ongoing crackdown on gay men and comes after an Egyptian court last month convicted eight men on charges of “inciting debauchery” following their appearance in an alleged same-sex wedding party on a Nile boat, sentencing each to three years imprisonment.

Egyptian law doesn’t explicitly prohibit same-sex relations, so suspected gays are often tried for “debauchery” — a charge normally reserved for prostitution and homosexuality cases.

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A forensic department spokesman told AFP that 21 defendants underwent “forensic tests” to determine whether they were gay, and that “three of them have fresh marks of non-consensual sexual assault.”

“Eighteen others have no visible marks to show that they are homosexuals, but that does not mean that they are not homosexuals,” the spokesman said.

Such medical tests have long been used in Egypt to identify suspected gay men.

Relatives of the accused were banned from attending Sunday’s hearing. The court adjourned the trial to January 4.

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