Saturday, September 28, 2002

Egypt Gay Convictions Overturned

by Newscenter Staff

(Cairo) An appeal court has quashed the convictions of four men arrested last February in Cairo for having consensual gay sex.

The four had been held in prison since their initial arrest on November 10.

The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, a San Francisco organization, said the acquittals may signal a major change in Egypt's crackdown on homosexuality in response to mounting U.N. criticism.

"These men were unjustly arrested, tortured, and convicted. We have been waiting more than 10 months to hear this news," stated Scott Long, Program Director of the IGLHRC.

"It is too early to celebrate, however," Long said.

"Fifty of the 'Cairo 52' are still on trial while the remaining two are doing hard labor. And at the same time we continue to receive reports of arbitrary arrests," added Long.

The four men were arrested the day the verdicts were delivered in the initial trial of the 'Cairo 52'. Long, in Cairo for that trial, was also able to speak to one the four through cell bars at the Public Prosecutor's office.

Long says he was told by the prisoner that all four had been beaten and ill-treated during interrogations.

"He described how he had been stripped naked and beaten with batons, splashed with cold water in the face, and left hanging by the bars in his jail cell," Long said.

A judge sentenced each to three years in prison with three years' probation to follow. The rulings were appealed, and the Appeals Court of Misdemeanors ordered the men freed for lack of evidence.

Wednesday's acquittals follow a string of U.N. actions, questioning Egypt's treatment of gays. The U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention in June was highly critical of the trial of the "Cairo 52."

"The detention of the above-mentioned persons prosecuted in the grounds that, by their sexual orientation, they incited 'social dissension' constitutes arbitrary deprivation of liberty" and calls on Egypt to redress the situation and amend its legislation."

The U.N. Human Rights Committee has also voiced its concern. The committee has included a question about Egypt's persecution of homosexuals in the list of questions it intends to officially ask the Government of Egypt this coming Fall.

The Committee requested that Egypt provide "information on the existence, in law and in fact, of discrimination based on sexual orientation."