November 28, 2017 at 11:39 pm EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
State Department reiterates concern over Egypt anti-LGBT crackdown

The State Department on Nov. 28, 2017, reiterated its concern over the anti-LGBT crackdown in Egypt.

The State Department on Tuesday once again expressed concern over the ongoing anti-LGBT crackdown in Egypt.

Al-Ahram, a newspaper the Egyptian government owns, reported 13 men who were convicted of “debauchery” and “forming a network for homosexual acts” received suspended sentences of three years in prison and were fined $281.69 (5,000 Egyptian pounds) on Sunday. Three additional men who were found guilty of the same charges received identical sentences on Tuesday.

Al-Ahram reported police raided an apartment near Cairo’s Ramses Square in September and arrested several men who were in “indecent positions.” The newspaper said prosecutors alleged those who were arrested “had solicited other men for sex in return for money.”

“The defendants denied being homosexuals,” reported al-Ahram. “The prosecution ordered that the suspects be subjected to medical examinations to determine if they had committed homosexual acts.”

Al-Ahram reported the 16 men have been released on bail and can appeal their sentences.

Dozens of LGBT Egyptians arrested since September

The men were sentenced more than two months after authorities arrested at least seven people who waived a rainbow flag during a Cairo concert that featured Mashrou’ Leila, a Lebanese rock band. Al-Ahram said “a number of young men who had frequented” the apartment that was raided in September raised the flag at the concert.

Amnesty International and the Human Rights Campaign have said dozens of LGBT Egyptians have been arrested since September. The introduction of a bill in the Egyptian Parliament that would criminalize the country’s LGBT community sparked outrage around the world.

State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert told the Blade last month the U.S. is “concerned by reports of detentions and arrests of LGBTI persons in Egypt.” A State Department official reiterated this point on Tuesday.

“We are concerned by reports of arrests of LGBTI persons in Egypt,” the official told the Blade.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Nov. 1 urged Egyptian House of Representatives Speaker Ali Abdel Aal Sayyed Ahmed to publicly condemn the criminalization bill and the broader anti-LGBT crackdown.

President Trump has yet to publicly comment on the crackdown. The State Department official with whom the Blade spoke on Tuesday did not say whether Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has specifically raised it with the Egyptian government.

“We urge countries to uphold and respect their international human rights obligations and commitments,” said the official. “The United States will continue to engage on issues of universal human rights and democracy.”

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson speaks at the Wilson Center on Nov. 28, 2017. It remains unclear whether he has raised the ongoing anti-LGBT crackdown in Egypt with his counterpart in the country. (Washington Blade Photo by Tom Hausman)

The 16 men convicted of “debauchery” and “forming a network for homosexual acts” were sentenced days after militants with an affiliate of the so-called Islamic State killed 305 people at a mosque in Bir al-Abed, a town that is located in the northern Sinai Peninsula. The massacre is the deadliest terrorist attack in modern Egyptian history.

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

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