Egypt: Teenager Sentenced in Cairo Case, New Evidence of Torture

Repression Must Stop Now!

SUMMARY

On September 18 in Cairo, an adolescent male was sentenced to three years in juvenile prison for "indecency and debauchery." He stood accused of practicing homosexuality; he had confessed under police interrogation, a confession he claimed was extracted under torture. A witness said the youth "screamed and sobbed as the verdict was read." The State-controlled press reprinted the boy's picture in stories about his conviction, and vilified his "perversion." He had been arrested along with 52 other men in an ongoing crackdown on homosexuality by the Egyptian government.

This sentence was the first handed down in the case. The trial of the other 52 continues. On the day after the adolescent was sentenced, a session of the larger trial reopened in a Cairo courtroom. Defendants wept as they tried to tell families and friends stories of their ill-treatment in detention. Some of the imprisoned men have been able to recount explicit details of torture through the wires of the courtroom cage. The court will resume hearing the case on October 3.

IGLHRC calls for URGENT renewed letters to the Egyptian government, expressing outrage at the continuing perversion of justice. Protest the sentence handed down on September 18; demand an end to the ongoing trial, a pardon for the imprisoned adolescent, and an immediate release of all men detained in the case.
ACTION

IGLHRC asks for letters to the Egyptian government, condemning the draconian sentence handed down on September 18, and the continuing trial of the other arrested men. ( A sample letter can be found in the following section.) Please write to:

His Excellency, President Mohammad Hosni Mubarak
President of the Arab Republic of Egypt
'Abedine Palace, Cairo, Egypt.
Tel: + 20 2 910288 / 243 1915 /245 9816
Fax: + 20 2 390 1998, 20 2 260-5417 , 20 2 355-5700, 20 2 795 3192 or 20 2 795 8016
TELEX 091 93794 wazra un
E-mail: webmaster@presidency.gov.eg
Salutation: Your excellency
His Excellency, Counsellor Farouk Seif Al Nasr
Minister of Justice
Ministry of Justice
Midan Lazoughly
Cairo
Arab Republic of Egypt
Fax: +20 2 355 8103
E-mail: mojeb@idsc1.gov.eg
Salutation: Your Excellency
Mr Ahmed Maher Al-Sayad
Minister of Foreign Affairs
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Corniche al-Nil
Maspiro
Cairo
EGYPT
Fax: +20 2 574 9533
E-mail: minexter@idscl.gov.eg or ForMin@idsc.gov.eg
Salutation: Your Excellency
Counsellor Maher 'Abd al-Wahid
Public Prosecutor
Dar al-Qadha al-'Ali Ramses Street
Cairo, Egypt
Fax: + 20 2 577 47 16
Salutation: Dear Public Prosecutor

Please also write to Egypt's Embassies abroad. If your country is not in the list below, go to http://www.mfa.gov.eg/missions_a.asp?id=0505 to find contact information.

AUSTRALIA
Embassy of the Arab Republic of Egypt
Tel: (62) 273-4437/8
Fax: (612)62734279
BRAZIL
Embassy of the Arab Republic of Egypt
Tel.: (5561) 323 8800
Fax: (5561) 323 1039
E-mail: embegypt@tba.com.br
CANADA
Embassy of the Arab Republic of Egypt
Tel: (613) 234-4931 / 35/58
Fax: (613)234-9347
E-mail: egyptemb@sympatico.ca
FRANCE
Embassy of the Arab Republic of Egypt
Tel: (33) (1) 47 20 97 70 / 47 20 75 97
Fax: (33) (1) 47230643
TELEX 645297
E-mail: boustane.paris@free.fr
GERMANY
Embassy of the Arab Republic of Egypt
Tel.: (4930)4771048 - 4771250
Fax: (4930)4771049
E-mail: Egembassy@hotmail.com
INDIA
Embassy of the Arab Republic of Egypt
Tel.: (9111) 6114096- 6114097
Fax: (9111) 6885355
E-mail: egyembindia@vsnl.com
SOUTH AFRICA
Embassy of the Arab Republic of Egypt
Tel.: (2712)3431590/3431591
Fax: (2712)3431082
TURKEY
Embassy of the Arab Republic of Egypt
Tel.: (90312)4684647/4261026/4266478
Fax: (90312)4270099
E-mail: egankara@yahoo.com
UNITED KINGDOM
Embassy of the Arab Republic of Egypt
Tel: (44) 020 7499-2401, 020 7499-3304
Fax: (44) 020 7355-3568 / 491-154
E-mail: etembuk@hotmail.com
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
Embassy of the Arab Republic of Egypt
Fax: 202 244 4319
E-mail: Egypt-embassy@usa.net

SAMPLE LETTER

I am writing to express my outrage over the persecution of 52 men now facing trial in Cairo for their homosexuality, as well as the cruel sentence handed down on September 18 to an adolescent involved in the case.

The reputation of Egypt is at stake. These men must be freed. It is time for these unjust proceedings to end.

These men have been jailed for over two months since their arrest on May 11, 2001---in violation of the internationally accepted protections against arbitrary detention. There is strong evidence that police and guards have subjected the men to torture. The sensational publicity given the case in the State-directed media---clearly the product of officially leaked information--- has only served further to prejudice the possibility of their receiving a fair trial. The Emergency Security Court which will try them allows no appeal to a higher tribunal -- violating the express provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Egypt has ratified.

I urge you to see that the charges against them are dropped and the men are freed. I urge you to give a full pardon to the adolescent sentenced on September 18. I urge you to eliminate the Emergency Law of 1981 which allows trials before courts which allow no proper appeal. I urge you to end the practice of prolonged, incommunicado arbitrary detention. I urge you to see that both press and criminal justice system abide by the terms of Article 23 of the Law No. 96 Concerning the Regulation of Journalists, which bars publication of details of a trial or investigation which might influence its outcome. I urge you to investigate allegations of torture and ill-treatment of detainees, and punish those found responsible. And I urge you to work for the repeal of provisions--whether criminalizing "contempt for religion" or "obscene behavior" or "prostitution"--which can be used to penalize persons exercising internationally recognized rights to free speech, free assembly, free association, and freedom of thought and belief.

BACKGROUND

At least 55 men were arrested on May 11, 2001, in a police raid on a Cairo discotheque believed to be a gathering place for homosexuals. 52 of these men now face trial for "obscene behavior"; the adolescent convicted on September 18 was apparently tried under this or a similar provision. Two defendants still facing trial are also charged with "contempt for religion." All the accused have been jailed continuously since their arrest more than four months ago. All the adults face trial before an Emergency State Security Court, whose decisions allow no ordinary appeal. Their trial opened on August 15, and has proceeded with sessions in irregular succession since.

The Egyptian government and the State-controlled press have provoked extraordinary public hysteria over the case, with sensational news articles revealing the names and workplaces and even reprinting photographs of many of those accused. Some of those still on trial face up to eight years' imprisonment; recent news and magazine articles have proposed execution as an appropriate punishment.

Ever since families and friends were first allowed contact with the jailed men, they have reported evidence that the men were tortured. Tora Prison, where most have been held since mid-May, is notorious for meting out physical abuse to inmates. At a September 5 hearing in the case, a reporter for Agence France-Presse was able to speak to several of the defendants through the cage where they are confined in the courtroom. They confirmed stories of abuse, for which they are apparently singled out because of their alleged homosexuality. One spoke of being subjected to a weekly "session of torture". "We had one two days ago," he said. "You have to take off your T-shirt or whatever you're wearing and they get other people to hit you on the back. They use wire and they usually hit us on the back so it doesn't show, and with their hands." He added that guards trample the prisoners' food on the ground to make it inedible.

Another prisoner, Sherif Farahat--identified by prosecutors as the ringleader of the homosexual "cult"--was able to tell the reporter that he had been subjected to three weeks of interrogations and beatings while blindfolded. Asked for more details, he added, "I'm afraid that they will hurt us if I tell you this, but electricity, this is the first thing I can tell you, not only to me but to other people." (See AFP, "Gays Tortured in Cairo Cells," September 6, 2001.)

The adolescent who was convicted on September 18 was tried in a separate, juvenile court; because of his age, his case was not heard by the Emergency State Security Court before which the other defendants stand. (IGLHRC will not reveal his name; his age has been variously reported in the press as 15 or 17.) It is not clear whether he was arrested at the discotheque on May 11, or whether police connected him to the homosexual "cult" through an informant. The youth pleaded innocent to the charge of "debauchery." He had reportedly confessed, under interrogation, to having practiced homosexuality and to being a member of a gay organization; at the trial, he claimed the confession was extracted by beatings and torture. However, he was found guilty and given the maximum sentence, three years in juvenile prison, with three years of police supervision to follow. Although his case had not been widely reported before his conviction, the verdict was extensively and sensationally covered; the State-controlled daily Al Gomhuria prominently carried his picture.

IGLHRC has monitored this case consistently since its beginning. Detailed information on earlier developments can be found in previous IGLHRC alerts:

"Witch Hunt Underway: Dozens Arrested, Held Incommunicado," May 17, 2001 (http://www.iglhrc.org/world/africa/Egypt2001May.html).

"Emergency Court Trials for Homosexual Suspects" (statement by IGLHRC and Human Rights Watch), July 3, 2001 (http://www.iglhrc.org/news/press/pr_010703.html).

"Perversion of Justice: Protest the Cairo Trial!" August 13, 2001 (http://www.iglhrc.org/world/africa/Egypt2001Aug.html).

See also a Press Information Note, "Explaining Egypt's Targeting of Gays," published by the Middle East Research and Information Project and republished by IGLHRC, at http://www.iglhrc.org/world/africa/Egypt2001Jul.html.

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