Egypt cracks down on homosexuality, arrests 33 men for alleged 'debauchery'

Police have arrested 33 men in a night-time raid on a Cairo bathhouse for alleged "debauchery", a security official said on Monday, in what appeared to be Egypt's latest crackdown on homosexuality.

Cairo: Police have arrested 33 men in a night-time raid on a Cairo bathhouse for alleged "debauchery", a security official said on Monday, in what appeared to be Egypt's latest crackdown on homosexuality.

Egyptian law does not expressly ban homosexuality but gay men have previously been arrested and charged with debauchery instead.

If tried and convicted the men could face lengthy prison terms.

"The police arrested 33 men on Sunday night from a common public bathhouse in the Azbakeya neighbourhood of Cairo for practising debauchery," General Ali al-Demerdash, head of the Cairo security directorate, said.

Those arrested were all Egyptians and among them was the owner of the bathhouse and employees, Mohamed Hetta, head of Azbakeya prosecution office said.

"The bathhouse owner is accused of turning the facility into a site of immoral and indecent conduct and group homosexuality," Hetta said.

Defendants in similar cases in the past have been charged with debauchery and "scorning religion".

In November, a Cairo court sentenced eight men to three years in jail for "inciting debauchery and offending public morality" after video footage of an alleged gay marriage went viral on the Internet.

New York-based Human Rights Watch has condemned prosecutions of homosexuals in Egypt.

"Over the years, Egyptian authorities have repeatedly arrested, tortured, and detained men suspected of consensual homosexual conduct," it said in September.

It also condemned "forensic anal examinations" which men accused of being homosexuals are forced to undergo.

Egypt's biggest arrest of homosexuals was in May 2001, when 52 men were arrested from the Queen Boat nightclub on the Nile in central Cairo.

Twenty-three were sentenced to jail terms up to five years, in a case that sparked international criticism.  

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