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Group says Egypt entraps, tortures gays
Updated: 2004-03-02 09:23

Egyptian authorities have entrapped, arrested and tortured hundreds of men thought to be gay, a New York-based human rights group said in a report Monday.

Human Rights Watch urged Egypt to repeal legislation allowing the prosecution of consensual homosexual relations covered under the country's debauchery laws.

The report said police agents surf the Internet and answer personal ads placed by men seeking men, then arrange meetings with them and arrest them.

Gen. Ahmed Shehab, who oversees Internet-related crimes for the Interior Ministry, said he had not yet seen the report and was unable to comment on it. However, vice officials in the past have acknowledged the practice of answering Internet personals by gay men and praised it for getting results.

At a news conference, Human Rights Watch and Egyptian rights groups accused the government of ignoring its own declarations to the United Nations and the European Union that homosexuality is legal in Egypt.

"The police at Abideen police station (in Cairo) clearly have a different opinion because they are going out and they are arresting men who are doing nothing, who are accused of nothing, but consensual, private, homosexual conduct." said Scott Long, HRW's director for homosexual issues.

Islam prohibits homosexuality, and it is taboo in Egypt's conservative society. Homosexuality is not explicitly referred to in the Egyptian penal code, but the report said legislation originally meant to penalize prostitution is being used against gay conduct.

In 2001, 52 men were tried on charges of debauchery and 23 were convicted and sentenced to up to five years in prison.

The rights group said at least 179 men accused of debauchery have been brought before prosecutors since the start of 2001. Hundreds of other men have been harassed, arrested and often tortured but not charged.

Early last year, the rights group interviewed 63 men who had been arrested for homosexual conduct. It said they spoke of being whipped, bound and suspended in painful positions, splashed with ice-cold water, burned with cigarettes, shocked with electricity to the limbs, genitals or tongue. They also said guards encouraged other prisoners to rape them, according to the report.

"The government," said HRW executive director Kenneth Roth, "has found it advantageous to demonize this group of people as a way of diverting attention from other problems."

Gen. Assem Omran, the Egyptian police official in charge of vice, whose department was specifically mentioned in the report, declined comment to The Associated Press.

The report said that doctors also participated in torturing the men. Prosecutors would refer suspects to the Forensic Medical Authority, an arm of Egypt's Justice Ministry, it said.

"Doctors there compel the men to strip and kneel ... subjecting them to intrusive, abusive and degrading examinations to 'prove' the men have committed homosexual conduct," the report said.

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