Egypt Court Declares Filming of ‘Gay Cairo Bathhouse Raid’ as ‘Serving Public Interest’

Egypt Court Declares Filming of ‘Gay Cairo Bathhouse Raid’ as ‘Serving Public Interest’

Photo: Mona Iraqi’s Facebook page

An appeals court declared that the work of Egyptian journalist Mona Iraqi, who had reported “a gay bathhouse orgy” to the police in late 2014, is “journalistic work that serves public interest.”

In the reasoning released by the Cairo misdemeanour appeals court on Wednesday, the reason behind Iraqi’s acquittal of charges of defamation and “publishing false information” is that the intention to “defame” did not exist in her case.

Instead, the court’s reasoning went on, Iraqi intended to raise awareness regarding the causes of AIDS or HIV virus and reveal the reasons behind its spread in Egypt, through her TV show “Al-Mestakhabi” (The Hidden), to commemorate World AIDS Day, which the court views as a matter of public interest.

The court had reversed on Jan. 19 a six-month prison sentence previously handed to Iraqi in the case dubbed by Egyptian media as the “bab al-bahr bath house” or “Ramses bath house” case.

Twenty-six persons had filed a defamation lawsuit against Iraqi for filming a raid by Anti-vice police on a men’s bath house after she had tipped off the police about the “practice of homosexuality” inside the bath house.

In the wake of Iraqi’s show, the prosecution arrested the 26 men over holding a “gay bath house orgy.” The owner and four other persons were accused of running the place to “practice, facilitate and incite debauchery.” The 21 other men were accused of “debauchery” and violating public decency.

They were all acquitted in January 2015.

A major point of contention in the case is whether Iraqi had filed a police report against the 26 individuals before filming the programme episode in question. While the court’s reasoning suggests, based on Iraqi’s testimony, that she had filed a report, defence lawyer Tarek al-Awadi contends that no report was filed at any point during the course of the trial.

Lawyer of the Press Syndicate Sayed Abu Zeid told Aswat Masriya that the judgement of the appeals court is one that should be emulated by other courts in publishing cases.

“Every person retains the right to criticise foul affairs in society as well as critique individuals if that serves the public interest,” Abu Zeid stated.

In accordance with the Court of Cassation’s principles, the court is entrusted to weigh the public interest against the private interest heralded by the case under question, according to Abu Zeid.

“The verdict undoubtedly angers some as the case involves issues of privacy; however the public interest should always take precedence over the private interest,” Abu Zeid added.

The arrest of the 26 inividuals and their subsequent trial were condemned by domestic and international civil society organisations, sparking wide scale criticism, particularly among human rights and LGBT activists.

Defence lawyer Awadi asserted that the appeals court’s ruling is in “complete violation” of the law because “the judge cannot rule on the validity of slanderous statements.” This is in contradiction with Awady’s view of the initial verdict issued by the first-degree court, which he saw as a “historical verdict” issued by a highly respected judge.

Awadi described the appeals court’s reasoning as more of a “descriptive essay” rather than a legal document, which does not address the specific episode upon which the case was filed.

The programme episode under investigation is the one where Iraqi accuses the 26 individuals, who were arrested at the Ramses bath house, of the same crimes that they have already been acquitted from by the court. The appeals court’s reasoning talks about a different episode all together, according to Awadi.

The defence team is expected to file a complaint against Judge Amr Sakr, who presided over the appeals court, to the judicial inspection unit of the ministry of justice. In addition, the team will request an appeal of the latest verdict in front of the Cassation Court.

The Egyptian AIDS Society had condemned the programme back then, insisting that its content was “immoral” and presented a “complete contradiction to the group’s objectives.”

Amnesty International condemned the Egyptian authorities’ “persecution” of men “suspected of homosexual conduct” in a statement released on September 9, 2015.

Egyptian law does not specifically crimanilise homosexuality, however 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.

This content is from: Aswat Masriya

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Aswat Masriya is a Thomson Reuters Foundation-sponsored website that covers Egypt's transition to democracy.

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