Families of the accused express their joy at their acquittal (Pic: YouTube, see below)
In a surprise move, an Egyptian court has freed 26 men who were arrested in a raid on an alleged gay bathhouse in Cairo on 7 December.
The raid was sensationalised in the Egyptian media, which broadcast images of the almost naked men being herded into police trucks. There were reports that some of the men were allegedly beaten during the incident.
The men were charged with debauchery and committing “indecent public acts.” The owner and staff were accused of hosting gay orgies and parties for money.
According to BuzzFeed, the court “exploded with the joyous cries” of the families of the accused when the judge announced his ruling on Monday, finding them innocent.
They called for the media to cover the men’s acquittal as visibly as their arrest was covered.
The verdict was described as a rare victory for Egypt’s LGBT community, even though the accused denied that they had engaged in gay sex.
“Finally, an Egyptian court issued a verdict in a case of this kind according to the law,” Ahmed Hossam, one of the lawyer defending many of the accused, told AFP.
It’s believed that no previous court has acquitted suspects on gay-related charges in a similar high profile case.
Lawyers said that there was no evidence to convict the men and anal medical exams were deemed inconclusive.
These forms of tests have been discredited by medical experts as useless and described by human rights groups as torture.
While homosexuality is not specifically outlawed in Egypt, gay people are targeted through immorality and public indecency laws.
Egypt has been accused of conducting a recent witch-hunt against the country’s LGBT community and police are said to use social media and dating apps to entrap gay and bisexual men.
In November, eight men who appeared in an apparent gay wedding video were jailed for three years. Their sentence was later reduced to one year by an appeals court.