Egyptians in Nightclub Case Charged with Sodomy
Fifty-two Egyptian men will stand trial on charges of practicing gay sex on a floating nightclub on the River Nile in Cairo, Egypt's state-owned MENA news agency said Thursday, cited by AFP.
Prosecutor General Maher Abdel-Wahid was quoted by Reuters as telling reporters that "(The files of the) 52 men were transferred to a state security court in connection with charges of abusing religion to spread extremist ideas verbally and in writing ... and practicing sodomy," Abdel-Wahid said three photographers who had also been arrested in the raid were set free.
The case has drawn the attention of human rights watchdog Amnesty International which said three weeks ago it was "gravely concerned" about it.
Attorney general Maher Abdel Wahid referred the 52 men to a state security court, whose verdicts cannot be appealed, but a date for the trial to begin has not been set, MENA said.
The two main defendants stand accused of "exploiting the Islamic religion to spread extremist ideas" as well as practicing gay sex "as part of the group's rituals in front of the remaining defendants and others with the aim of insulting the heavenly religions and sparking civil strife."
Police said they had been watching the group for some time and had compiled a file on their practices before the nocturnal raid on the Queen Boat, known locally as a popular gay venue, on May 9.
The remaining 50 defendants are charged with "practicing debauchery with men," which is interpreted as engaging in homosexual practices in Egypt where Islam is the majority religion and gay sex is illegal.
MENA recalled that the Egyptian press has dubbed it the case of a "devil-worshipping" cult, but the group has not been specifically charged with membership in a religious cult.
Though the authorities mentioned "rituals," they did not disclose what they were related to Satanism. According to Reuters, the defendants were also charged with praying in a manner that contradicts proper practice, Abdel-Wahid said.
The charges carry a maximum total sentence of five years' imprisonment, court sources said, quoted by Reuters.
The men have been in prison since their arrests during a police raid on a Nile boat in the early hours of May 11 and have allegedly been subjected to "torture or ill-treatment," according to allegations raised by Amnesty.
"Amnesty International believes that the majority, if not all, of these men are detained purely on the grounds of their alleged sexual orientation," the organization said in a statement earlier this month.
"If people are detained solely on account of their sexual orientation, Amnesty International would consider them prisoners of conscience and call for their immediate and unconditional release," it added.
The group of young people was taken into custody from the Queen Boat nightclub moored on the Nile in the wealthy Zamalek district – Albawaba.com
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