Egypt: New Reports of Torture and Legal Misconduct at Cairo 52 Trial

Next Hearing October 10, Final Sentences Expected This Month

For Immediate Release: October 4, 2001

SAN FRANCISCO - The trial of the 52 men detained in Egypt because of their alleged homosexuality continued October 3rd with new allegations of beatings and procedural irregularities. Court observers believe it is likely that the hearings will end and sentences will be pronounced before the end of the month. International human rights organizations have repeatedly expressed concern about this case and have requested that the men be released.

At yesterday's hearing, one of the defendants testified that he was arrested at home and contended that his mother was beaten and humiliated during the arrest. According to his testimony, he was beaten up by police officers while they dragged him to the street, blindfolded to the police station, where he received more beatings together with other defendants.

"We have been concerned since this case began about credible allegations of torture," said Surina Khan, Executive Director of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC). "These stories are multiplying. We fear for the physical safety of the defendants in detention."

Local gay activists have uncovered additional irregularities surrounding the arrests in this case. Contrary to previous news reports, not all of the defendants were present at the Queen Boat the night of May 10 or were arrested there. Out of the 52 defendants, 19 were arrested elsewhere. Some of the other detainees were picked up by police for minor violations: one reportedly was a street vendor arrested for selling watches without a license at a teahouse, another was cleaning his motorcycle on the street without his ID, and still another was initially arrested for having a fight with an off-duty police officer. After their arrests, they were placed in the ranks of suspected "homosexuals" by police eager to stimulate a scandal. A media campaign ensued in the days following the arrests, with the tightly state-controlled media broadcasting names and addresses of some of the detainees, and peppering reports with allegations of debauchery and Satanism. Egyptian legislation prohibits the publication of details concerning an ongoing investigation or trial that would influence the course of the proceedings, yet the government has refused to apply its own laws.

"If the government of Egypt wanted to create a scandal out of this case, they have managed to do so," stated Ms. Khan. "People of good conscience around the world are watching."

Fifty defendants are all charged with "obscene behavior" under a law against prostitution (Article 9c of Law No. 10 of 1961 on the Combat of Prostitution). Two more men are charged, in addition, with "contempt for religion" under Article 98f of the Penal Code. All 52 have pleaded innocent and are presenting individual defenses. As of yesterday 22 defenses have been heard. The next hearing was set for October 10. Decision and sentence can be pronounced by the Court either immediately after all the defenses have rested, or at a special session soon thereafter. The Special Emergency Court delivers rulings which cannot be appealed.

A teenager, tried in a juvenile court because of his age, was sentenced September 18 to the maximum penalty allowed by law: three years in prison, to be followed by three years of probation. Because of his age, he is allowed to appeal, and a hearing before the juvenile court has been set for October 31st.