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Egyptian court acquits all 26 arrested in bathhouse raid

Families and supporters of acquitted defendants celebrate after Cairo court decision. Click image for video. (Photo courtesy of YouTube)
Families and supporters of acquitted defendants celebrate after Cairo court decision. Click image for video. (Photo courtesy of YouTube)

BuzzFeed reports:

CAIRO — A Cairo court acquitted 26 men of charges of participating in a gay “sex party” at a public bathhouse in December. …

No trial court [previously had] ever cleared Egyptians of charges of homosexuality in a high profile case, say human rights activists.

The case became known throughout Egypt because a television broadcaster named Mona Iraqi was filming when police dragged them naked from the bathhouse on December 7. Iraqi claimed to have tipped police off to sexual activities inside the bathhouse, and she featured it in a program purporting to tell, “the whole story of the dens for spreading AIDS in Egypt,” on the three nights following the raid. …

The Egypt-based Aswat Masriya news organization reported:

The prosecution [had] accused the bath house owner and four others of running the place to “practice, facilitate and incite debauchery.” The 21 other men were accused of “debauchery” and violating public decency.

Human Rights Watch condemned the physical examination the defendants were subjected to, saying it “violates international standards against torture.” Men arrested for alleged homosexual behaviour [in Egypt and some other Middle Eastern countries] usually undergo anal examination.

Reuters stated:

Covering their faces with sweaters or hats, [the defendants] were marched into the courtroom on Monday, a police officer kicking one and urging them to hurry as they approached a cage used to hold defendants during court sessions.

Highlighting sensitivities in Egypt, a conservative Arab state, people in the court exploded in anger when a journalist took a picture of the men. Someone tried to choke the photographer.

Egyptian journalist Mona Iraqi (at right, with camera phone) records the police raid on the Bab el-Bahr public bathhouse, with men being herded into a police van, on Dec. 7, 2014. (Screenshot from Mona Iraqi's Facebook page, courtesy of Scott Long)
Egyptian journalist Mona Iraqi (at right, with camera phone) records the police raid on the Bab el-Bahr public bathhouse, with men being herded into a police van, on Dec. 7, 2014. (Screenshot from Mona Iraqi’s Facebook page, courtesy of Scott Long)

BuzzFeed added:

[Defense attorney Tarek] Al-Awady said he would file suit against the officer who led the raid, Lt. Col. Ahmed Hashad, whom lawyers accuse of fabricating his testimony on what he witnessed inside the bathhouse during the raid. He also said he would bring charges against Mona Iraqi. …

One of the pieces of evidence seized upon by defense lawyers was the anal exams performed by police medical experts after their arrest. Egyptian authorities maintain testing the tightness of the anal sphincter can establish whether or not a man is gay, though many international medical experts say the exams are unreliable and human rights groups have denounced them as a violation of basic human rights.

But instead of reporting many of them had been penetrated – as Hashad claims to have seen with his own eyes – the examiners reported only three had “wounds” in the anus. Defense attorney Mohamed Zaki told BuzzFeed News that in these cases the examiners reported scratches or tears, which could be evidence of trauma that actually occurred after the men were in police custody.

One [defendant] told lawyers that he had been raped after the group were thrown into a police cell while still naked alongside other prisoners, said  Zaki, who works with the Egyptian Center for Civil Reform, which is representing seven of the defendants.

Zaki said one of the defendants told him that the police presented them to the other prisoners as a prize, recounting the police saying, “today is your lucky day — enjoy, guys! Here’s your lollipop,” using an Egyptian expression that roughly corresponds to “here’s a hot piece of ass” in English. This defendant said he was then stripped of his towel, pushed to the floor, and raped, while police ignored his cries for help.

For more information, read the full articles here:

Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. After his retirement from paid newspaper work in 2011, he launched Erasing 76 Crimes and helped with the Spirit of 76 campaign that assembled a multi-national team of 26 LGBTI rights activists to advocate for change during the International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C., in July 2012. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, including the Erasing 76 Crimes news site and the African Human Rights Media Network. Contact him via Twitter @76crimes or by email at info@76crimes.com. Mailing address: 21 Marseille, Laguna Niguel CA 92677 USA.

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