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26 'Gay' Men Arrested at Cairo Bathhouse Caged for Court Appearance

26 'Gay' Men Arrested at Cairo Bathhouse Caged for Court Appearance

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The men who were arrested December 2 appeared in court Sunday, weeping and asking for belief in their innocence.

More than two dozen men who were arrested along with a bathhouse owner in Cairo appeared in court Sunday, according to Agence France-Presse, which reported that many hid their faces, wept, and implored the court to believe in their innocence lest they and their families be destroyed.

"I am innocent," AFP quoted one defendant as saying from inside of a cage where he was held for the duration of the proceedings, along with the 25 other men accused of debauchery and perversion. "I was in the hammam for therapy, I swear in the name of Allah."

The men's attorney noted that the Cairo bathhouse has been open for 100 years, according to AFP. He also reminded the court that it is natural for people in a bathhouse to be dressed only in towels, as government television reporter Mona Iraqi told viewers in her "expose" on the bathhouse. The implication in Iraqi's report was that the arrested men were wearing only towels because they were engaged same-sex sex acts at the hammam, the Egyptian term for bathhouse.

While homosexuality is not technically illegal in Egypt, the men are accused of "perversion" and "debauchery." The case has been continued to next month.

Iraqi, who hosts the investigative program el-Mestakhaby, which translates to "The Hidden," on a pro-government network, has been widely criticized for allegedly setting up the police raid.

"The security forces have always known about the bathhouse," a local gay man and regular customer, who asked to be called simply "Ahmed" out of fear of arrest, tells The Advocate.

But police weren't interested in raiding the bathhouse until Iraqi "told them she would put [the raid] on TV," Ahmed adds.

The December 2 raid on the bathhouse in the Ramses neighborhood of Cairo's Azbakeya District came as a terrifying shock to Cairo's gay community, says Ahmed.

Speaking to the Washington Blade, human rights activist and blogger Scott Long said "[Iraqi has] encountered outrage both in Egypt and internationally over what she's done and she's lying to cover her tracks."

Long, whose work has included a staff position at Human Rights Watch, told the Blade that Iraqi's claimsthat she was just trying to protect people from HIV is "deceitful and dangerous." He also alleged she has lied to international media outlets and intentionally misstated Egyptian law, and deliberately mistranslated Arabic in the media.

The Advocate has asked Iraqi for comment previously, and more recently regarding Long's accusation. She has not yet replied.

Advocate Magazine - KehlaniAdvocate Magazine - Gus Kenworthy

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