- January 26, 2015
Post submitted by Jean Freedberg, Deputy Director of Partnerships, HRC Global
Today, an Egyptian court of appeals upheld the acquittal of 26 Egyptian men in a widely watched case. The men had been arrested on charges of “debauchery” during a December 7 police raid on a Cairo bathhouse that was filmed and highly publicized in the Egyptian media by “informer journalist” and television producer Mona Iraqi. In a surprise ruling, the men were acquitted on January 12 by a lower court due to shortcomings in the state’s case. However, Egyptian authorities immediately announced that they would appeal that decision. According to Al Ahram news, the appellate court upheld the lower court’s ruling that the state had not provided sufficient evidence that the accused had engaged in homosexual acts.
Even though same-sex relations are not specifically outlawed in Egypt, the men were arrested on charges of “debauchery,” an allegation that is often used as a pretense to arrest men and women suspected of identifying as LGBT.
Activists around the world have followed this case with interest and concern. Interest because of a widespread belief that these arrests were orchestrated and politically motivated by the El-Sisi regime as a popular means of proving their conservative credentials, and concern for the safety of the men amid allegations that they had been raped and tortured while in custody.
The arrests were made in the context of an intensifying crackdown on the Egyptian LGBT community since El-Sisi came to power in 2013. Since last October, over 80 people have been arrested on accusations based on their sexual orientation and gender identity. On November 1, eight Egyptian men were sentenced to three years in prison after appearing in a video depicting an alleged same-sex wedding.
HRC hopes that, even though the human rights situation in Egypt is bleak, the outcome of this case might dissuade the El-Sisi regime from pursuing the LGBT community on trumped-up charges for short term political gain in the future.