A Syrian refugee was sentenced to one year in prison on Tuesday on an array of charges related to sexual debauchery after an officer from the Morality Police set up a fake gay hookup date online.
The undercover police officer, who was posing as a gay man on social media, chatted with the refugee, arranged to meet him and arrested the man as soon as he arrived on location. The officer later submitted all information, including chat history, to public prosecution, which was used to convict the man.
While in custody, the defendant was forced to undergo an anal examination, a controversial practice that authorities claim can prove whether the client engages in anal sex. Many international rights groups, such as Human Rights Watch, and health specialists have denounced the examinations as medically baseless and amounting to torture.
Though the forensic doctor said the anal examination showed no evidence of gay sex, the defendant was convicted nonetheless for charges including “inciting debauchery”, “solicitation to commit immoral acts in public”, “habitual debauchery” and “debauchery”.
“The case contained lots of null procedures, like the arrest itself,” the defendant's lawyer Ahmed Hossam told Egypt Independent. “There wasn’t a crime in the first place. The crime was in the imagination of the officer himself. No debauchery happened. Second, sending personal messages is unconstitutional? Searching an innocent person isn’t allowed according to criminal procedure code in Egypt.”
The undercover officer kept pressuring his client to meet after he bailed multiple times, which Hossam argued shows clear entrapment on the officer’s part.
Hossam immediately filed a court appeal on Tuesday, to be held on July 8, and hopes the judge will see the faults in the state’s case against his defendant. “Practically speaking, the conservative sides play an important role in this cases,” he says. “It’s not about legal reasoning and facts in this case. Society considers the LGBT community sinners and… forgoes professionalism to satisfy their urge to punish them.”
Since the ouster of Muslim Brotherhood president, Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s new military-backed regime has stepped up its arrests of local LGBTQ community members. Approximately 200 people have been arrested on charges related to sexual deviance after October 2013, according to Dalia Abd Elhameed from the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR).
In their crackdown of Egypt's LGBTQ community, officers have raided houses, bathhouses and entrapped men online. In some cases, neighbors have reported suspicious “homosexual behavior” to authorities, sparking police raids. Once arrests have been made, Abd Elhameed says, officers often use the defendants to collect the names of their friends the community.
Abd Elhameed told Egypt Independent that this case is by far the first of its kind. Although no one has detailed statistics on exact numbers and circumstances of these LGBTQ arrests, there have been several confirmed cases of officers convincing gay men on mobile applications and other social media to meet in person, where they are then arrested.
“We just want to stress the fact that what the police is doing is extremely illegal; going under cover, trying to entrap other gays,” says Abd Elhameed. “You can’t see the person the responsible for implementing the law and try to convince someone to do something, which is against the law, then say ‘these are the criminals’.”
Meanwhile, some gay social networks have become proactive in warning the community of the potential dangers they face while in Egypt. The gay mobile application Scruff, recently joined Grindr in telling its users to exercise caution in Egypt, even providing an in-depth legal analysis of Egyptian law.
“Sexual relations between consenting adult persons of the same sex in private are not prohibited as such,” the warning reads. “However, the Law on the Combating of Prostitution, and several articles of the Penal Code, have been used to imprison gay men in recent years.”
The full text of the legal analysis can be seen here.