Wednesday November 14 06:57 PM EST
Egypt sentences 23 of 52 suspected gays
By Tom Musbach, Gay.com / PlanetOut.com Network
SUMMARY: An Egyptian court issued a verdict in the "Cairo 52" trial, acquitting
29 of the men and sentencing 23 to jail for suspected homosexuality.
An Egyptian court on Wednesday issued a long-awaited verdict in the trial of
the "Cairo 52," acquitting 29 of the men and sentencing 23 to jail for
practicing "sexual immorality," a euphemism for homosexuality.
The 52 men had been arrested in May while attending a party on a floating
nightclub on the Nile River, and the subsequent months of trial hearings
generated sensational local media coverage and outcries from international
human rights groups.
Homosexuality, while regarded as taboo, is not expressly prohibited by law in
Sherif Farahat, 32, accused of being the leader of the group, received five
years, due to additional charges of "forming a group which aims to exploit the
Islamic religion to propagate extremist ideas" and "denigrating monotheistic
religions," according to Reuters.
Of the other 22 found guilty, one received the maximum three years for "sexual
immorality." Twenty received two years, and one was sentenced to one year.
The sentences cannot be appealed, due to emergency laws enacted after the
assassination of Anwar Sadat in 1981. The jail sentences also involve hard
labor, according to the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission
Scott Long, program director for IGLHRC, called on Egyptian President Hosni
Mubarak (news - web sites) to pardon the 23 men sentenced to jail. "The arrest
and trial of these men has been a perversion of justice from day one," he
"We are very chilled by the hard labor sentences," said Surina Khan, IGLHRC's
executive director. "Having received numerous testimonies of beatings and abuse
of the Cairo 52 while in detention, we can only imagine what awaits them now."
At Wednesday's hearing, the accused stood in a large iron cage, and few others
were allowed in the courtroom. Family members, friends and journalists crowded
in a near-riot outside the chamber, according to news reports.
An Egyptian government official defended the proceedings in a statement to
Reuters: "We have to judge every society by its norms. If homosexuality is
accepted in other societies, that's their business. ? In this society,
homosexuality is a shameful act."
There has been no word on whether Amnesty International and gay groups Al
Fatiha and GayEgypt.com might call for a tourist boycott of Egypt, as they had
hinted in the event of a "guilty" verdict.