Qasr Al-Nil Misdemeanour Court on Saturday sentenced eight men to three years in prison on charges of "debauchery", and to three years probation after their release.The men convicted were shown appearing to take part in a Nile boat wedding celebration featuring two men as the celebrants. The video went viral on social media sites.
A man who said he was one of those who appeared in the video denied the allegations in an interview with privately-owned Rotana Masriya television channel in early September. He said he was holding a birthday party for his friend and got him a silver ring as a birthday gift. Prosecutor-General Hisham Barakat watched the video and confirmed that the footage was of two men getting married, a statement from the prosecution said. The defendants have been detained since early September as per an order from Egypt's prosecutor-general to investigate charges of debauchery
and spreading acts that violate public decency.
Consensual same-sex relations are not explicitly prohibited in Egypt, but other laws have been used to imprison gay men in recent years, including charges "debauchery" or "shameless public acts."
After the verdict, the defense again denied that the men were gay, as their relatives outside the court room yelled out in protest: "our sons are being oppressed." One defense attorney, Emad Sobhi, insisted that the court had caved in to popular pressure in the conservative country. "My clients are innocent of practicing homosexuality," he told AFP. "The court succumbed to public opinion."
At the last hearing, on October 11, a spokesman for the justice ministry's forensics department insisted the men were innocent. "The medical test showed that the eight defendants have not practiced homosexuality recently or in the past," Hisham Abdel Hamed told AFP. "The entire case is made up and lacks basis. The police did not arrest them red-handed and the video does not prove anything." He was referring to anal examinations, a long-standing practice in Egypt that New York-based Human Rights Watch has condemned.
HRW has demanded that the men be released. In a different case in September, an Egyptian court sentenced six allegedly homosexual men to two years in jail with labour for the same charges of "committing debauchery.