Egypt: 8 imprisoned on anti-gay charges, 23 for protest

Egyptian defendants in courtroom cage during trial (Photo courtesy of DT News)
Egyptian defendants in courtroom cage during trial (Photo courtesy of DT News)

Activist/commentator Scott Long writes:

Two trials, two travesties

Eight men were sent to prison [Nov. 1] in Cairo, because their faces flickered through a video that prosecutors said showed a “gay wedding.” They got three years; after that, they’ll serve another three years’ “probation,” sleeping every night from dusk to dawn in a police station. Their lives are ruined.

Scene from alleged "gay wedding" video.
Scene from alleged “gay wedding” video.

It’s not even clear yet what charges they were convicted of. The heavy book thrown at them seems to have included “incitement to debauchery” (fujur, the term of art for male homosexual conduct in Egyptian law); that’s article 14 of Law 10/1961, in itself worth up to three years in prison. There were also articles 178 or 179 of the criminal code, anti-pornography provisions that punish “manufacturing or possessing materials that violate public morals,” or “inciting passersby to commit indecency on a public road.” The charges were ridiculous. The defendants didn’t spread the video or incite anyone to anything — when the film went viral on YouTube, those who were in it tried desperately to get it taken down.

The film clip wasn’t remotely pornographic. YouTube is not a public road. There was no proof the men were gay. A representative of the country’s Forensic Medical Authority — who inflicted abusive and intrusive anal examinations on them all, and found even by those bogus standards they were “unused” — said, “The entire case is made up and lacks basis. The police did not arrest them red-handed and the video does not prove anything.” In Egypt, though, trials no longer proceed through proof, just prejudice and fear. Rampant political opportunism trampling the remains of rule of law: that’s General Sisi’s Egypt.

Yara Sallam (top L), Sanaa Seif (bottom L), and three other defendants in prison garb at a Sept. 13 hearing (Photo courtesy of Scott Long)
Yara Sallam (top L), Sanaa Seif (bottom L), and three other defendants in prison garb at a Sept. 13 hearing (Photo courtesy of Scott Long)

On October 26, in a court in a sun-baked Cairo military compound, 23 defendants also got three years in prison, and three years of further dusk-to-dawn confinement.

They included my friend Yara Sallam, a feminist and human rights activist, and six other women, and sixteen men. Among them also were Sanaa Seif, a young democracy activist, the daughter of the late, heroic human rights lawyer Ahmed Seif el-Islam, who died in August while working on her defense; a well-known photographer, Rania El-Sheikh; Mohammed Anwar or “Anno,” a revolutionary veteran who was a gifted member of a modern dance company as well; and more.

Egyptian leader Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the former military commander-in-chief. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)
Egyptian leader Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Their crime was being on the scene of a peaceful June 21 demonstration near the Presidential Palace. The protest was against Egypt’s new, repressive protest law, which the military government imposed by decree last year. The law lets the state imprison anyone who voices opposition in the streets without permission.

It’s meant to put any and all dissent in its proper place: a penitentiary.

For more information, read the full article, “Two trials, two travesties,” in Long’s “A Paper Bird” blog.

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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