News (World)

Defense lawyers criticize Egypt’s arrest of 26 alleged gay men in bathhouse raid

Defense lawyers criticize Egypt’s arrest of 26 alleged gay men in bathhouse raid

CAIRO — Defense lawyers for 26 men arrested in a televised raid by police looking for gays at an Egyptian bathhouse criticized the prosecution’s case Sunday, saying it is based on a faulty investigation and only one police officer’s testimony.

Court of Justice in Cairo.
Court of Justice in Cairo.

The December 7 raid was part of an ongoing crackdown on gays in Egypt, described by activists as the worst in more than a decade. While consensual gay and lesbian relationships are not specifically outlawed in Egypt, there is a societal taboo against same-sex couples.

A private TV station’s crew filmed the men’s arrest, saying it tipped off police to a bathhouse “hosting men sex orgies.” The televised raid outraged activists.

One lawyer representing 14 of the men, Islam Khalifa, told the court Sunday that the defendants suffered “psychological duress” from the publicized arrests, which defamed and endangered both them and their families in conservative Egypt. He said having the television crew there violated the men’s right to privacy and Egypt’s constitution.

Of the 26 men, 21 have undergone medical examinations to see if they had had anal sex. Three of men had trauma that required further examination, defense lawyer Tarek al-Awadi said.

The men face charges including debauchery and performing indecent public acts. Such vague terms can apply to prostitution or even public display of affection.

Their trial began Dec. 21. On Sunday, the men stood in a small cage in the court, some with hoodies covering their face. Two wept in front of journalists, who were not allowed to approach them.

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Family members were not allowed to attend the session, apparently to avoid outbursts as lawyers discussed details of the case. Angry family members largely refused to speak to the journalists gathered there, accusing them of trying to slander their relatives.

“We are innocent! We were scandalized! No one in our family is gay!” one screamed.

As the defendants left the courtroom, one relative chanted: “Raise your heads up high. Acquittals, God willing.” Once in a security vehicle to be return to jail, family members shouted: “You are men! You are men!”

The trial will resume Monday.

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