Beirut police are reported to have forced 36 men arrested in an adult film cinema to undergo invasive medical tests to assess if they had sex.

According to Box Turtle Bulletin, the men were arrested at the Plaza Cinema in the city of Beirut on 28 July. The venue is known as a cruising spot for gay men.

Among the arrested suspects, was the owner of the cinema, reported the Lebanese Murr TV channel.

Footage of the raid showed police wielding large automatic weapons to take on what the channel called “prostitution and abnormalities in the cinema”.

Local LGBT activists from the Helem group later discovered from the arrested men that police had allegedly forced them to be medically examined for signs of anal sex.

Those who did not appear to have had sex were apparently released. It is not known if any of the men are still being held.

Activists were surprised by the raid as Beirut has traditionally been one of the more tolerant cities in the Middle East, with a significant LGBT community.

It is believed that the raid was in reaction to a Lebanese talk show host, Joe Maalouf, launching an anti-gay campaign on his show; referring to the cinema on air and accusing the police of “protecting perverts”.

It is unclear what the men have been charged with, although this could include ‘public indecency’ and having sexual relations ‘contradicting the laws of nature’.

While a 2009 district court ruled that consensual homosexual sex is “not against nature”, the men could be charged under this law and could face a year in jail if convicted.

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