A court in Cairo has sentenced 16 men to jail for three years after finding them guilty of “inciting debauchery” and “abnormal sexual relations” amid the largest LGBT crackdown in Egypt in more than a decade.
Fourteen men were convicted on Sunday, and two more on Monday. Local media reports that the charged men have been freed on bail of 5,000 Egyptian pounds (£211) and an appeal is pending.
The convictions come during a renewed state attack on LGBT freedoms sparked by a 22 September Mashrou’ Leilia concert in which the rainbow gay pride flag was raised by an audience member.
At least 75 people have been arrested since then, according to the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR).
“These sentences strike at the very heart of being human and are another example of the ongoing persecution of LGBTI people and the wider crackdown on human rights by Egyptian authorities,” said Najia Bounaim, Amnesty International’s North Africa Campaigns Director.
“The Egyptian authorities must quash the sentences against the 16 men immediately and unconditionally release them.”
After 33 initial arrests after the concert – only 10 of which are believed to be related to the flag – most of the other defendants were entrapped by online dating app stings.
Men detained under such circumstances are often subject to anal examinations to determine whether they have had gay sex, which rights groups such as Human Rights Watch say are against human rights law and amount to torture.
At least five of those detained recently had been subjected to such examinations.
The current spate of arrests are the most severe clampdown on LGBT rights since 2001, when Cairo police arrested 52 men in a raid on a floating disco on the Nile.
While there are no specific laws against homosexuality in Egypt, discrimination against individuals perceived to be LGBT is rife, as are arrests on debauchery and immorality charges.
A new deeply discriminatory law may also be on the books to directly outlaw same-sex sexual activity following the uproar in the conservative country over the September flag-raising incident, however.
More than 60 MPs have backed a bill which defines “homosexuality” for the first time. Promoting or inciting homosexuality, as well as being found guilty of the act itself, could be punishable by five years in prison. Combined charges could lead to a sentence of 15 years.
All LGBT-friendly material would also be punishable by up to three years and those found guilty could be “publicly shamed” by having their sentences published in newspapers.
The bill will be discussed by parliament within the next few months.