Trial of 50 young Egyptians accused of homosexuality reopens
Arabia.com - July 26, 2002
CAIRO (AFP) - Fifty young Egyptian men accused of practising homosexuality are back in court for a retrial ordered by President Hosni Mubarak.
The trial is to open before the Abdine criminal court. The state security court last November sentenced 23 of the men to prison, mostly for one to two years, on charges of practicing homosexuality and acquitted 29 others.
Mubarak, empowered to cancel judgements and grant amnesties, ordered their retrial in May, saying the case did not fall under the jurisdiction of the state security court.
However, he upheld jail terms of the two leading defendants, Sherif Farahat and Mahmud Ahmed Allam, to five and three years respectively after they were accused of "scorning religion." Farahat was also charged with "sexual practices contrary to Islam."
The retrial of the other 50 men was to open July 2 before the Abdine court but was delayed when judge Mohamed Abdel Karim excused himself, saying he had already judged the accused in their first trial in November.
On July 16, Karim announced the trial would re-open on July 27 before the same court under judge Hassan al-Sayess, who will consider whether to convict the men, mostly aged around 20, for "debauchery".
When the first trial opened on July 18, 2001, it sparked protest and anger from Western gay rights movements and human rights organizations, notably in Switzerland, France and the United States.
Pressure from Western officials, groups and leading figures continued after the sentences, until Mubarak's decision to throw out the verdicts and order a retrial.
French President Jacques Chirac expressed his "concern" to Mubarak in Paris in February and "wished, without wanting to interfere, that the decision would be rescinded", while French singer Jean-Michel Jarre delivered an open letter of protest to the Egyptian ambassador signed by 6,000 people.
The petition, addressed to Mubarak, included the signatures of the actress Catherine Deneuve and the philosopher Bernard Henri-Levy.
The London-based human rights group Amnesty International twice demanded the release of the defendants, an investigation into allegations of torture during their detention, and respect for sexual orientation.
And many Western diplomats in Cairo followed-up the trial closely and attended the trial sessions in a show of support for the accused.
Homosexuality is not explicitly prohibited under Egyptian law which is based on sharia, or Islamic, rulings, although numerous statutes condemn conduct deemed to be an affront to public morality.