Egypt: The Hunt Against Homosexuals Continues

Additional Arrests Reported in Damanhour

For Immediate Release: January 20, 2002

SAN FRANCISCO - At least eight more men have been arrested in Egypt on suspicion of homosexual behavior, in what the press called a crackdown on a "network of perverts." The arrests, following on last year's trial of 52 men for homosexuality, suggest a steadily growing pattern of persecution. At the same time the trial of four men arrested for homosexuality on November 10, 2001 opened today in Cairo and was postponed until next week.

"Enough is enough! The government of Egypt must stop these arrests now," declared Scott Long, Program Director of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission. "Too many people are sitting in jail whose only crime is to be suspected of homosexuality. Homosexuality is not perverse, the behavior of the Egyptian government is."

The independent newspaper Al-Wafd reported on January 20 that eight men were arrested for the "practice of debauchery" in Damanhour, capital of the province of Al-Beheira, southwest of Alexandria.

Police confiscated "an address book containing the names and addresses of a large number of perverts," the newspaper said, raising fears of further arrests.

"With these arrests and the fear of more to come, the Egyptian authorities are terrorizing their own population," added Mr. Long.

The newspaper article was headlined, "Major Network of Perverts Arrested in Al-Beheira: Social Security employee used his home as a lair for the practice of debauchery." The report said that "A group of investigators stormed the apartment, and the eight defendants were caught in debauched positions during a party for group perversions. They were wearing nightgowns and makeup."

The civil servant who owned the apartment was arrested along with all others present. The prisoners reportedly included an upholsterer (52 years old), a shoe-shiner (52 years old), a factory employee (37 years old), a mechanic (32 years old), and a carter (19 years old).

All are being held for four days--presumably until January 23--"pending investigations." Damanhour prosecutor Yaseen Zaghloul ordered that the men be subjected to medical examinations of their genitals and anuses.

In related news, the trial of four men arrested for homosexuality on November 10, 2001, in the Boulak suburb of Cairo, opened today, but was postponed for a week because the jail had neglected to send the prisoners to court. The judge opened the proceedings by demanding of the bailiff, "Where are the khawalat [a demeaning term for transvestites or homosexuals]. Bring in the khawalat"--language indicating that the chance of a fair hearing in the case is slim.

Provisions in Egypt's Law 10 of 1961 on the Combat of Prostitution criminalizing the "habitual practice of debauchery" are widely used not only against sex workers but against consensual homosexual behavior. The arrest raids mentioned above, including the "Cairo 52," are based on this law. In addition two Egyptian university students were entrapped by undercover police agents and sent to hard labor under this law.

In the "Cairo 52" case the Emergency State Security Court in Cairo sentenced 23 presumed homosexuals to one to five years of hard labor on November 14. These sentences cannot be appealed. At the same time the Court acquitted 29 additional defendants. Despite international pleas the Egyptian government refuses to pardon the remaining 23 men.

All fifty-two were arrested on the night of the May 10, 2001 in a raid of the Queen Boat discotheque in Cairo or in random police pickups during the following days. The 52 were held for over six months without bail. Defense lawyers argued that proper arrest procedures were not followed, that the arrests were made at random, and that charges were fabricated after the arrest. There are enough irregularities in the arrests and handling of this case to suggest that the "Cairo 52" may have been framed. The State-controlled media engaged in a campaign of vilification against the 52, publishing their names, and creating an environment of scandal around them, branding them perverts, blasphemous, and traitors.

The Cairo 52 trials have been condemned by international human rights organizations, members of US Congress and the United Nations.