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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, January 16, 2015 - Volume 43 Issue 03
Acquitted! Egypt frees bathhouse defendants, but prosecutors will appeal
Section One
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Acquitted! Egypt frees bathhouse defendants, but prosecutors will appeal

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

All 26 men arrested in a Cairo bathhouse in December have been freed by an Egyptian court.

The trial literally lasted a minute, just enough time for the judge to read a list of the defendants' names before uttering the word 'innocent.'

The court immediately erupted into raucous celebration as the defendants shouted and waved their shackled hands and their relatives cheered and sobbed in relief.

'They destroyed our lives. God rescued us,' one of the defendants told The Associated Press. He declined to give his name to reporters. Other defendants wore scarves or hats to conceal their identities.

'The verdict is an accurate reflection of the law and we expected this outcome,' defense attorney Tarik Al-Awadi told BBC News after the January 12 trial.

'However, the rights of the defendants will only be realized when [the authorities] put on trial the people who were involved in this, and who offended the honor of these people.'

Five of the men - the owner of the bathhouse and four employees - were tried for facilitating 'parties of debauchery, orgies among male homosexuals' in exchange for money. The 21 others were charged with committing 'debauchery' and 'indecent public acts.'

Had they been convicted, the defendants would have faced between one and nine years in prison.

Defense lawyers charged that at least one of the defendants was raped while in police custody, according to the Daily Telegraph's Louisa Loveluck, reporting from Cairo.

Several defendants said they plan to sue Egyptian TV anchor Mona al-Iraqi, who claimed she triggered the raid on the bathhouse on December 7 by tipping off the police about what was happening there. Days later, she broadcast footage of the arrest with a sensationalized story about 'a den of mass perversion spreading AIDS in Egypt.'

Within hours of the innocent verdict, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights reported that the prosecution has formally appealed the not-guilty verdict against the 26 men.

Under Egyptian law, the prosecution has the right to appeal twice - once to an appeals court, and after that to the Court of Cassation - but neither court is under any obligation to accept the appeal.

Gay sex is legal in Egypt, but Gay people are often arrested or harassed by police using the cover of laws against debauchery, indecency, or blasphemy, according to the ILGA (International LGBT Association).

Activists say the Egyptian authorities have launched a crackdown on the country's LGBT community over the past 18 months. During that time, at least 150 men have been arrested or put on trial on debauchery charges, according to the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights.

Egyptian courts seem to be willing to treat defendants in such cases leniently, however. Less than a month ago, an Egyptian appeals court reduced the prison sentences given to eight men convicted of 'inciting debauchery' for appearing in a video, which purported to show a Gay wedding.

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