TWENTY-SIX men charged with offences including debauchery and performing indecent public acts walked free from a Cairo court today after being acquitted.
Only three hearings took place, during which families quarrelled with journalists who tried to photograph their relatives in the dock.
The ruling sparked deafening cheers and jubilation inside the courtroom as some of the defendants uncovered their faces and cried with relief.
They had been arrested in a televised raid last month by police looking for gay people at a Cairo public bathhouse.
Same-sex relations are not explicitly prohibited in Egyptian law but homosexuality is a social taboo.
“They destroyed our lives. God rescued us,” said one of the defendants, who declined to give his name to protect his privacy.
The trial opened two weeks after the December 7 raid, after an unusually quick referral by the general prosecutor.
A decades-old law criminalising prostitution is often used to penalise the gay community.
The owner of the bathhouse and four staff members were tried for facilitating debauchery in exchange for money.
In the official charges, the prosecutor said that the investigation had revealed that the owner and the staff ran the bathhouse as a place for “parties of debauchery, orgies among male homosexuals in exchange for money.”
The other defendants were charged with practising debauchery and indecent acts.
Crackdown on the gay community and also recently on atheists go hand in hand with a wider campaign against all forms of dissent and diversity.
Civil rights lawyer Ahmed Abdel-Nabi revealed today that a court in the Nile delta province of Beheira had sentenced student Karim al-Banna to three years in prison over posts on Facebook depicted as “an assault on religion.”
The court sentenced him after holding a single session during which lawyers were denied the right to present a defence.
Mr Abdel-Nabi said that Mr Banna was arrested in November when he went to a police station to file an assault complaint but was arrested over allegations that he was an atheist.
He will be free on bail until his appeal against conviction is heard.