Egypt court acquits 26 men in gay trial

An Egyptian court on Monday acquitted 26 men arrested in a televised raid last month by police looking for gays at a Cairo public bath house.

Cairo: An Egyptian court on Monday acquitted 26 men arrested in a televised raid last month by police looking for gays at a Cairo public bath house.

The trial, which caused an uproar among activists and rights groups, captured public attention after a pro-government TV network aired scenes of half-naked men being pulled from the bath house by police, Al Jazeera reported.

The men faced various charges, including debauchery and performing indecent public acts. Monday`s verdict came after only three hearings, during which families quarrelled with journalists who tried to photograph their relatives in the dock.

Rights activists say 2014 was the worst year in a decade for Egypt`s gay community, with at least 150 men arrested or put on trial.

"They destroyed our lives. God rescued us," said one of the defendants who did not give his name to protect his privacy.

The trial opened only two weeks after the Dec 7 raid on the bath house, or hammam.

Five of the defendants in Monday`s trial -- the owner of the bath house and four staff members -- were tried for facilitating debauchery in exchange for money.

In the official charges, the prosecutor said the investigation revealed the owner and the staff ran the bath house as a place for "parties of debauchery, orgies among male homosexuals in exchange for money". The rest of the defendants were charged with practicing debauchery and "indecent public acts".

There are no laws in Egypt criminalising homosexuality but a decades-old law criminalising prostitution is often used to penalise the gay community.

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