Two human rights groups have blasted the Egyptian government's decision to prosecute 52 men before an Emergency State Security Court on charges of "obscene behavior" and expressing "contempt for religion."
An Egyptian prosecutor will review their continued detention this week, said Human Rights Watch news.
In a joint statement, Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) condemned the men's detention since May 11, when they were arrested apparently on suspicion that they had engaged in consensual homosexual behavior, and expressed grave concern that they may have been subjected to torture in detention.
"Egyptian law does not outlaw homosexuality, but these men are being held on charges of violating public morals," said Scott Long, IGLHRC's policy director.
"They are really being punished for exercising their basic rights to free expression and free association."
The men were initially held incommunicado, unable to contact lawyers or relatives, and some were reportedly beaten and ill-treated, said the news service.
If convicted, they face prison terms ranging from three months to nine years. There is no right of appeal to a higher tribunal.
"This case exhibits some of the worst features of Egypt's justice system - prolonged and incommunicado detention and emergency proceedings on spurious charges," said Hanny Megally, director of the Middle East and North Africa division of Human Rights Watch.
The 52 were arrested in the second week of May, apparently on suspicion that they had engaged in consensual homosexual behavior, and are to be tried before the Emergency State Security Court for misdemeanours on charges of committing "obscene behavior" (al-fujur - which can include adultery, fornication and sodomy), and with "contempt for religion".
The decision to refer the case to trial was announced by Prosecutor General Maher Abdel Wahed at a press conference held on June 28 – Albawaba.com
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