Questions, Human Rights Concerns Remain After Egyptian Court Acquits 26 Men in Bathhouse Case
Washington, D.C. – Human Rights First today applauded the news that an Egyptian court acquitted the 26 men who had been on trial for debauchery after their arrest during a raid in a Cairo bathhouse. The men were accused of participating in “homosexual activity” and arrested publicly.
“There is no doubt that today’s acquittal is an important step forward for the rule of law in Egypt and a big victory for those 26 men,” said Human Rights First’s Shawn Gaylord. “But there are still some questions that remain unanswered, the answers to which will help the international community know what to make of this verdict. If this was mostly a case of not being able to ‘prove’ homosexuality, it’s impact may be limited for other LGBT Egyptians. In addition, we must remember that many other human rights defenders remain in prison and face ongoing harassment by the Egyptian authorities.”
Today’s acquittal is the first time an Egyptian trial court has dropped the charges against men accused of homosexuality in a high-profile case. The 26 men were arrested on December 7 at a bathhouse in Cairo. The men were reported by a journalist, Mona Iraqi, who informed the authorities that the men would be at the bathhouse and then filmed the men as they were escorted naked into police custody. According to the defendants’ lawyers, the men were subjected to “forensic” anal exams and other horrific abuses during their time in police custody. Human rights organizations, LGBT activists, and the international community expressed outrage at the arrests and have publicly called for the charges to be dropped.
In recent months, the Egyptian government has led a campaign to crack down on civil society groups and quash political dissent. The Egyptian government has continued to use excessive force against protesters, imprisoned thousands of political dissidents and several journalists, and held unfair trials leading to harsh sentences.
Human Rights First continues to urge the United States to reshape its side of the bilateral relationship with Egypt to promote a path toward stability and a human rights-respecting democracy in Egypt. Human Rights First’s new blueprint, “How to Prevent Egypt from Slipping into a Deepening Crisis” details specific recommendations for how the U.S. government should use its influence to persuade the Egyptian government of President Sisi to turn away from the authoritarian path.