The Associated Press reported some of the men who face charges of “debauchery” and “perversion” covered their faces with hoodies during the proceedings as they stood in a small cage inside a Cairo courtroom. The newswire further noted that two of the defendants wept in front of journalists.
Lawyers representing the men who were arrested during the Dec. 7 raid in Cairo’s Ramses neighborhood said prosecutors have based their case on the testimony of one police officer. The Associated Press reported the attorneys told the court that 21 of the defendants had undergone so-called anal tests to determine whether they are gay.
The raid took place a few weeks after eight men who appeared in a “gay marriage” video on YouTube were sentenced to three years in prison.
An Egyptian appeals court late last month reduced their sentences, but advocates with whom the Blade has spoken in recent weeks say the bathhouse raid is indicative of the ongoing LGBT crackdown in the country.
“We are truly feeling terrorized by our own government,” Ahmed, a 28-year-old Egyptian LGBT rights advocate, told the Washington Blade after the raid. “Most gays feel as prisoners here, either because they want to leave but can’t due to the lack of job offers abroad, or because they don’t want to leave and fear being themselves and living a normal healthy life where they can only focus on building a career.”
Mona Eltahawy, an Egyptian-born journalist, told the Blade that President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi’s government has carried out “several raids like this latest one, knowing full well that its humiliation and dehumanization of those men will be welcomed by many.”
“The regime also knows that its targeting of the LGBT community is a welcome distraction from it’s political and economic woes,” said Eltahawy.
Mona Iraqi, a reporter for Al Kahera Wal Nes, a pro-government television station, came under fire for reportedly tipping off authorities after she and a cameraman tried to enter the bathhouse.
One of the pictures that Iraqi posted to her Facebook page appears to show her inside the bathhouse filming the detained men with her cell phone. She described the bathhouse as “the biggest den of group perversion in the heart of Cairo” before her program —ElMestakhaby, which means “The Hidden” in Arabic — broadcast video of the raid.
Iraqi has not responded to the Blade’s repeated requests for comment, but she said on her program that she has been “facing systematic smear campaigns” from activists and international media outlets.
The organizers of a Swiss film festival for which Iraqi had worked fired her over role in the raid.
The Associated Press reported the trial of the 26 men arrested during the raid will continue on Monday.