Police raided a bath house in Ramses, near Cairo’s main railway station, and arrested 25 men on charges of “debauchery” and organising same-sex “orgies”, the Ministry of Interior said on Tuesday.
The ministry told Daily News Egypt that, upon receiving reports that the bath house was “holding orgies”, the anti-vice police force stormed the building on Sunday and arrested the suspects.
The 25 suspects have been referred to the Azbakeya prosecution where they are being investigated, the ministry said. The ministry added that after applying all legal procedures to handle the situation, and receiving the prosecution’s warrant the police proceeded to carry out the raid.
The defendants – including the owner of the bath house and his employees – will spend four days in preventive detention, and will be examined by the forensic department, the Azbakeya prosecution unit told Daily News Egypt
The Egyptian public prosecutor is yet to issue a statement with the details of the arrests and the investigation.
The case was set to be reported and featured by an investigative TV show on private satellite station Al-Qahera Wal Nas, where the show’s cast featured promos titled “revealing the reasons behind the spread of HIV in Egypt and the group sex business”.
The programme received criticism from social media users and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) activists. The programme’s host and investigative journalist Mona Iraqi posted watermarked photos of the alleged semi-naked defendants as they were being arrested.
LGBT activist Leil Zahra Mortada said on his official Facebook page that Iraqi is “not only spreading hate speech against people with HIV and risking their lives and the lives of many through extremely misinformed and manipulated reporting; she is also actively participating in the recent crackdown [on LGBT people] in Egypt.”
He accused Iraqi of violating human rights as she is shown in pictures filming the handcuffed and semi-naked detainees with her mobile phone.
The activist demanded that media workers should publicly condemn Iraqi’s behaviour, adding that what Iraqi did is “using the profession of journalism as a tool of oppression”.
Wael Abbas, a prominent Egyptian blogger, said Iraqi’s behaviour “reveals how a journalist can be transferred into a police agent”.
The team responsible for the programme released a statement defending the content and the level of professionalism of the journalist. The statement stressed that while filming the programme, the team followed a high level of international professional and humane standards.
Suspects accused of homosexuality are frequently forced to undergo intrusive anal examinations to determine whether they are “habitual” homosexuals, a practice condemned by rights groups.
No specific law outlaws homosexuality in Egypt. However, in most cases the prosecution uses article 9 of Law 10/1961 criminalising “debauchery”, to convict people accused of engaging in homosexuality.
The law is most frequently used to accuse defendants of involvement in prostitution.
Last November, the Qasr Al-Nil Court sentenced eight defendants to three years imprisonment on charges of homosexuality and “offending public morals”. The men were arrested after a video of an unofficial same-sex wedding went viral on social media.
Although the forensic department announced that the defendants were not “habitual homosexuals”, they were sentenced. Human Rights Watch (HRW) condemned the sentences adding that it “is the latest signal that the new government will prosecute anyone to try to bolster its support”.
In 2001, 52 males were arrested on a boat on charges related to same-sex acts and “Satanism”, with some receiving prison sentences.