Egypt gay trial: 23 jailed
CAIRO, Egypt -- An Egyptian court has jailed 23 men accused of taking part in a gay sex party in a boat on the River Nile.
One man was jailed for five years with hard labour on charges of debauchery, contempt of religion, falsely interpreting the Quran and exploiting Islam to promote deviant ideas.
Another man was jailed for three years with hard labour.
Twenty other defendants were jailed for two years for debauchery, according to the official verdict. One defendant received one year in prison for debauchery. Twenty-nine of the accused were acquitted.
The sentences came at the end of a four-month trial that has shocked Egypt, where homosexuality is seen as a shameful sin.
There were chaotic scenes outside the court house before the verdicts were announced. Only a few people had been allowed into the court room.
Police wielding sticks drove back a crowd of about 200 relatives, lawyers, journalists and members of the public, and closed the courthouse doors.
Relatives of the accused have jostled journalists covering the trial, accusing them of defaming the defendants. The accused entered the court room hiding their faces behind masks and newspapers.
The prosecution began after police raided a Nile boat restaurant on May 11, arresting 55 men they accused of taking part in a gay sex party. Prosecutors decided to indict 52 of the detainees on charges of debauchery and contempt of religion.
Egyptian law does not explicitly refer to homosexuality, but a wide range of laws covering obscenity and public morality are punishable by jail terms.
Local and international human rights groups criticized the trial. Amnesty International accused Egypt of prosecuting people for their sexual orientation and said the type of court, the Emergency State Security Court, was not independent.
Earlier on Wednesday, a director of the U.S.-based International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, Scott Long, said the government was manipulating religion in its prosecution of the accused.
"Fifty-two lives, 52 reputations and 52 human beings are being damaged. This is what is brutal about this," Long told the Associated Press.
"Egypt will not be used for the defamation of manhood and will not be a hub for gay communities," Prosecutor Ashraf Hilal told the court in September.
Hilal said medical examinations of the accused had found that 14 defendants had participated in gay sex.
One of those arrested on the Nile boat, a boy in his mid-teens, has already been sentenced to three years' imprisonment for homosexuality.
The boy, who is 15 according to court papers but 16 according to Amnesty, was tried separately and is appealing against the verdict in a juvenile court.
International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission
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