By Mohammad Baali
Albawaba.com - Cairo
The defense lawyers for 54 Egyptians accused of homosexual activity have requested a postponement of a court hearing scheduled for Wednesday, “because they have not been allowed access to the interrogation reports.”
According to one of the lawyers, who asked to remain unnamed, the court has denied them such access, and accordingly they have not been able to prepare their statements.
He did not say whether their demand had been accepted by the court.
The “suspected gay men,” who face charges of "immoral behavior" and "contempt for religion," have been detained since their May 11 arrest on a tourist boat, which has long been known as a gathering place for the Egyptian gay community.
The arrest triggered bitter criticism by local and international human rights groups.
The London-based human rights watchdog, Amnesty International, has said it is "gravely concerned about the ongoing detention" of the young Egyptians, described by the authorities as homosexuals.
According to Hossam Baghat, the international relations coordinator for the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights, the men are at risk of “losing their jobs, families, friends and social status, as well as spending up to five years in prison.”
“The case involves religious beliefs and morality, two elements that have always succeeded in keeping people engaged for a long time,” said a lawyer from a center defending four of the accused, quoted by Baghat in his article Explaining Egypt’s Targeting of Gays.
"The majority, if not all, of these men are detained purely on the grounds of their alleged sexual orientation," according to Amnesty’s statement.
"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," the statement added.
The organization said that it was also extremely concerned about allegations that the detainees were tortured or ill-treated during the first days of their detention.
“These serious allegations should be promptly investigated by the Egyptian authorities,” the statement said.
According to Amnesty, the vilification and persecution of people for their sexuality violate the most fundamental principles of international human rights law.
The right to freedom from discrimination on the basis of sex, which includes sexual orientation, is recognized in regional and international treaties, including the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Egypt is a state party, it said - Albawaba.com
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