The 26 men arrested in a raid on an Egyptian bath house on 7 December 2014 have been cleared of the charge of ‘inciting debauchery’ following a tip-off that the bath house was a site for orgies. The men were arrested in a highly controversial raid which was filmed and later televised on The Hidden, a weekly television program broadcast on Al-Qahira Wel Nas.
Police abuse of LGBT+ people has grown in intensity over the last few years. The arrests came soon after eight men were arrested for appearing in a YouTube video for what purported to be Egypt’s first ‘gay wedding’, as well as the news that Egyptian police were targeting LGBT+ people on social media sites, including Grindr.
The Daily Telegraph’s Louisa Loveluck claimed that at least one of the defendants had been raped while in the Cairo police’s custody, and at least one defendant was allegedly kicked by a police officer to make him move into the court room faster.
The owner of the bath house was accused of ‘turning the facility into a site of immoral and indecent conduct and group homosexuality’ by prosecutors. The defendants had been subjected to anal examinations, and many of them covered their faces when they were dragged handcuffed into the courtroom.
The arrest was filmed by journalist Mona Iraqi. A Cairo human rights advocate, Scott Long, said, ‘This case became symbolic for a lot of people of the way in which the media colludes with the police and the state.’
The men have also been named and their personal details published across the internet – despite gay sex being legal in Egypt – in what some commenters have seen as a moralistic crusade by the state, which wishes to portray itself as enforcing traditional values after the overthrow of Mohammed Morsi in 2013.
The defendants chanted ‘Allahu Akbar (God is greatest)!’ when the verdict was read.
‘Finally, an Egyptian court issued a verdict in a case of this kind according to the law,’ said Ahmed Hossam, a defence lawyer for 14 of the accused.