January 12, 2015 at 9:31 am EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Egyptian court acquits 26 men charged with ‘debauchery’

Cairo, Egypt, gay news, Washington Blade

An Egyptian judge on Monday acquitted 26 men who faced “debauchery” charges after they were arrested at a Cairo bathhouse. (Photo by Evan Hill of Al Jazeera English via Wikimedia Commons)

An Egyptian court on Monday acquitted 26 men who were charged with “debauchery” last month after police raided a bathhouse.

The Associated Press reported those who were inside the Cairo courtroom began cheering and wailing after the judge announced his verdict. Scott Long, a former Human Rights Watch staffer, told the news wire he was “shocked and delighted” by the acquittal.

Police on Dec. 7 arrested the 26 men during a raid on a bathhouse in Cairo’s Ramses neighborhood.

Mona Iraqi, a reporter for a pro-government television station, came under fire for tipping off authorities after she and a cameraman tried to enter the bathhouse.

She posted a picture to her Facebook page that shows her inside the bathhouse filming the detained men with her cell phone. Iraqi described it as “the biggest den of group perversion in the heart of Cairo” before her program broadcast video of the raid.

Iraqi did not immediately response to the Washington Blade’s request for comment about the verdict.

Human rights advocates with whom the Blade has spoken in recent weeks say the raid is indicative of the ongoing persecution of LGBT Egyptians that has only increased since President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi ousted Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood in July 2013.

“In Egypt since the coup, there hasn’t been a single other high-profile human rights case of any kind that’s ended in acquittal on the first instance,” Long told the Blade on Monday. “This is an unprecedented victory for Egyptian activists. I only hope it also sends a message to police that judges will no longer rubber-stamp their fake evidence, and that the crackdown on LGBT people has to stop.”

An official with the State Department also welcomed the acquittal.

“We welcome the court’s decision that brought this case to a just conclusion,” the official told the Blade. “We continue to stress the importance of protecting the basic rights of all Egyptians.”

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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