A Cairo misdemeanour court acquitted on Monday 26 defendants accused of “debauchery” after receiving a tip that they were holding a “gay bath house orgy”.
The defendants welcomed the verdict with applause and celebrations, an eye witness told Aswat Masriya.
The police raided a bath house in downtown Cairo’s Ramses in December 2014, arresting those inside.
The prosecution accused the bath house owner and four others of running the place to “practice, facilitate and incite debauchery.” The 21 other men were accused of “debauchery” and violating public decency.
The incident was reported to the police by a journalist who discovered the bath house when working on a report on the spread of HIV in Egypt.
Egyptian laws do not clearly ban homosexuality, yet Article 9 of the 1961 Anti-Prostitution Law punishes those guilty of “inciting debauchery and immorality” by imprisonment for a period ranging from three to five years.
Egypt has recently clamped down on homosexual activities, arresting in September eight men who appeared in a Youtube video depicting an alleged homosexual marriage ceremony.
The Qasr al-Nil Misdemeanour Court sentenced the eight men to three years in prison on charges of inciting debauchery and violating public decency in November.
The trial was condemned by domestic and international civil society organisations. International watchdog Human Rights Watch had called for the defendants’ release. The organisation condemned the Egyptian authorities’ “persecution” of men “suspected of homosexual conduct” in a statement released on September 9.
Human Rights Watch condemned the physical examination the defendants were subjected to, saying it “violates international standards against torture.” Men arrested for alleged homosexual behaviour usually undergo anal examination.
In 2001, 52 men were arrested in Egypt after the police raided a Nile boat restaurant where the men were said to be engaging in a “gay sex party”, dubbed as the Queen Boat Trials. Twenty-three of the defendants were sentenced to prison for “immoral behavior and contempt of religion.”