Police in Egypt are entrapping gay men and other LGBTQ+ people through dating apps, a BBC investigation has found.
Same-sex relations are not illegal in the country, but a law against “debauchery,” used to prosecute sex work, is being used against people seeking same-gender dates or sexual partners.
“Transcripts submitted in police arrest reports show how officers are posing online to seek out — and in some cases allegedly fabricate evidence against — LGBT people looking for dates online,” the BBC reports. Simply using a dating app can be grounds for arrest.
Police sometimes make it appear that app users are offering sex for money, which makes cases easier to prosecute. In one such case, a man identified only as Laith received a phone call, supposedly from a friend, asking him to meet for a drink. But when he met to meet the friend, he encountered a police squad instead.
The police arrested and jailed him, then made up a fake profile for him on the WhosHere app that made it appear he was selling sex. He was sentenced to three months in jail for “habitual debauchery,” a sentence reduced to a month when he appealed.
While he was being held, an officer put out a cigarette on his arm; he showed the BBC reporter the scar. He said he despaired so much that he considered suicide. Some other men told stories of faked evidence and forced confessions.
Police have also targeted foreign visitors to Egypt. Alicia Kearns, a member of the U.K.’s Parliament, told the BBC more should be done to warn LGBTQ+ travelers about the risks they are likely to face in Egypt and other countries “where their sexuality might be weaponized against them.”
Egyptian government officials have admitted to targeting LGBTQ+ people. “We recruited police in the virtual world to uncover the masses of group sex parties, homosexual gatherings,” Ahmed Taher, former assistant to the minister of interior for internet crimes and human trafficking, said in 2020, the BBC notes.