From Human Rights Watch:

The acquittal by a Cairo appeals court of eleven men earlier convicted of consensual homosexual conduct is a step forward, but arrests and harassment of men who have sex with men continue in Egypt, Human Rights Watch said today. The appeals court overturned the convictions on July 20.

Zaki Saad Zaki Abd al-Malak, 23, was arrested by Egyptian vice squad officers in January 2002 when he was to meet a man with whom he had corresponded in an Internet chatroom. The photo, reproduced with his permission from his court file, is the one he had sent to the policeman who entrapped him.

“Men remain imprisoned in Egypt for private acts, in a continuing crackdown which violates international law,” said Scott Long, a researcher for Human Rights Watch. “What is needed is to repeal the provisions of a law which invite repressive enforcement.”

The men were among sixteen who had been charged in February 2003, when police tapped the phone of a private apartment in the Giza district of greater Cairo after an informer reported that the owner was visited by other men. Police arrested the men whose recorded conversations suggested that they had engaged in homosexual acts. They were charged with the “habitual practice of debauchery,” punishable by up to three years’ imprisonment under Law 10/1961.

“Debauchery” [fujur] in the law is understood to criminalize consensual, non-commercial homosexual sex.

The men were tortured in detention. One told Human Rights Watch that they were held in isolation for fifteen days in the women’s section of the Giza police station; there, guards beat them three times daily, at every change of shift.

Thirteen men eventually appeared at trial; three more in hiding were tried in absentia. Only two were acquitted by the trial court April 17, 2003; the rest received sentences of from one to three and a half years’ imprisonment.

While overturning the sentences of the eleven men who appealed, Judge Mo’azer al-Marsary said, “We are so disgusted with you, we can’t even look at you. What you did is a major sin, but unfortunately the case has procedural errors and the court has to acquit all of you.”

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