BEIRUT, Lebanon — Police in Lebanon have arrested 27 men for allegedly engaging in “unnatural sex” during a raid on a Beirut bathhouse on Saturday.
According to Colonel Tony Haddad of Hbeish police station, the 27 unnamed men, including the owner and employees, have been in police custody since police raided Agha Hammam in the area of Hamra-Concord, Beirut.
Haddad claimed the raid was conducted following the arrest of an individual who said Agha Hammam as a meeting place for men who are seeking sexual encounters with other men.
Although Hbeish police have previously been criticized for using an “anal-probe” test to “determine” if someone is gay, Haddad denied that such a test was used in this incident, but that investigators “confirmed” the sexual orientation of 24 of the detainees. The remaining three said they were not gay.
A coalition of five advocacy organizations — Helem, Arab Foundation for Freedom and Equality (AFE), M-Coalition, Marsa Sexual Health Clinic, and the Lebanese Medical Association for Sexual Health (LebMASH) — have condemned the arrests, branding it “homophobic practice” and called for the individuals to be released.
The groups claim that during the raid there were no sexual acts taking place at the Agha Hammam.
Hbeish personnel investigated the detainees and their files have now been transferred to the General Prosecutor, Bilal Dinnawi, awaiting charges.
Article continues belowDinnawi informed the five organizations “that overall the General Prosecution is not interested in charging the detainees with (“having unnatural sex”), article 534. However, in this particular case Dinawi confirmed that he might charge the detainees under public indecency (article 521).”
Meanwhile, Lebanon television MTV reported that Hammam has been used as a place for “debauchery” and “perversion, and that other Hammams across Lebanon are “guilty” of similar “public indecency.”
Georges Azzi, director of AFE, called the report “tabloid sensationalist journalism,” and told LGBTQ Nation, “In times where religious fanaticism is threatening the security and the freedom of the country and had killed many of our soldiers, it is a little bit absurd that police is focusing it’s effort on going after the gay community ”
“Aren’t we supposed at this time to promote freedoms and fight extremism with more personal freedoms and respect of human dignity? Or is the police serving the extremist agenda?” he asked.