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52 Plead Not Guilty in Egyptian Gay Sex Case

July 19, 2001|From Associated Press

CAIRO — Shouting angrily, 52 men arrested at an alleged gay gathering pleaded not guilty Wednesday to charges of debauchery, religious offenses and having gay sex as a case that has shocked Egypt and raised human rights concerns got underway.

Occupying one side of the packed Cairo courtroom, the men--who were handcuffed--shouted as the prosecutor read the charges. Some entered court covering their faces with towels to hide from cameras.

The defendants were arrested May 11 at a Nile riverboat restaurant. Police originally said the suspects were having a gay sex party, but prosecutors later changed tack and said the group was meeting with a self-styled preacher.

The trial has caused a storm in Egypt, where homosexuality is widely seen as a sin. International human rights groups have protested the arrests.

Egyptian law does not explicitly refer to homosexuality, but violations of laws on obscenity and public morality are punishable by jail terms. Contempt of religion is punishable by up to five years in prison.

After Wednesday's hearing, the case was adjourned until Aug. 15.

"We only want mercy!" cried one defendant over the din of wailing family members. "We've been detained without any evidence against us!" yelled another.

Many of the defendants said they were not on the boat during the police raid.

Khadiga Ramadan, mother of defendant Abdel Moeiti Salah, said she first learned about charges against her son from newspapers. "By God, he is not involved in this," she said.

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