CAIRO — An Egyptian court convicted eight men on Saturday of charges of “inciting debauchery” after their appearance in a video of a same-sex wedding party on a Nile riverboat, sentencing each to three years in prison.
The Internet video shows two men exchanging rings and embracing among cheering friends. The eight men were detained in September when a statement from the office of Egypt’s chief prosecutor said the video clip was “shameful to God” and “offensive to public morals.”
Egypt is a conservative majority Muslim country with a sizable minority of Christians. Homosexuality is a social taboo among Egyptians of both faiths and only in recent years have fiction and movies included gay characters.
Consensual same-sex relations are not explicitly prohibited, but other laws have been used to imprison gay men in recent years, including “debauchery” or “shameless public acts.” Same-sex marriage is unheard-of in Egypt.
The verdict Saturday was the latest in a crackdown by the authorities against gays and atheists. Liberal and pro-democracy activists and violators of a draconian law on street protests have also been targeted.
Human Rights Watch, which is based in New York, said in September that Egyptian authorities had repeatedly arrested and tortured men believed to have engaged in consensual gay conduct.
In April, four men were convicted and sentenced to eight years in prison for “debauchery” after being accused of holding parties that involved homosexual acts and where women’s clothing and makeup were found.
In 2001, Egypt made news around the world when 52 men were arrested in a police raid on a Nile riverboat restaurant and accused of taking part in a sex party. After a highly publicized trial in an emergency state security court, 23 of the men were convicted and sentenced to prison terms of one to five years on charges of immoral behavior and contempt of religion.
Egypt’s crackdown on gays and atheists is taking place as the country of nearly 90 million people appears to be steadily moving to the right, as the army and security forces battle Islamic militants waging a campaign of violence in Sinai.
The authorities say national interests must take precedence over everything else so Egypt can be spared the fate of countries like Syria, ravaged by a civil war, or neighboring Libya, where radical Islamic militias control large swathes of the nation.
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(via NY Times)