Egypt sentences 21 on gay sex charges

By Advocate.com Editors

Originally published on Advocate.com March 18 2003 12:00 AM ET

A criminal court in Egypt sentenced 21 men to three years in jail Saturday on charges stemming from a suspected gay sex party in a case condemned by Egyptian and international human rights groups as persecution of gay people. Officials told the Associated Press that another 29 men were acquitted in
the retrial, which began in July following an order by Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak. The officials said the defendants were not in court to hear the verdicts, but their lawyers attended. The 21 men were sentenced to three years in jail on charges of practicing debauchery, the officials said.

The defendants are among 52 men arrested in a May 2001 police raid on a Nile riverboat restaurant on suspicion they had taken part in a gay sex party. The Emergency State Security Court initially sentenced 23 of them in November 2001 to jail terms ranging from one to five years. The rest were acquitted. Mubarak, in his capacity as Egypt's military ruler, last May ordered 50 of the men--including the 29 acquitted--to be retried on the debauchery counts before a lower court, annulling the original verdicts, because the emergency courts did not have the jurisdiction to hear the charges.

Human rights groups and the international community have denounced the trials and condemned Egypt, where homosexuality is met with zero tolerance. Homosexuality is not explicitly referred to in the Egyptian legal system, but a wide range of laws covering obscenity, prostitution, and public morality are punishable by jail terms.