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Egyptian appeals court grudginly acquits 11 men in gay trial

July 21, 2003

CAIRO - An appeals court acquitted 11 men of charges of debauchery linked to homosexual activity, one of their lawyers said Sunday.

As his three-member panel issued its ruling Saturday, lawyer Helmi Al-Rawi said Judge Mo'azer El-Marsafy told the defendants: "We are so disgusted with you, we can't even look at you. What you did is a major sin, but unfortunately the case has procedural errors and the court had to acquit all of you."

The 11 had been convicted in April and sentenced to up to three years in prison in one of several such cases that have drawn accusations of anti-gay bias in Egypt from international human rights groups. The defendants appealed in May.

Homosexuality is not explicitly referred to in the Egyptian penal code, but a wide range of laws covering obscenity, prostitution and debauchery are applied to homosexuals in this conservative country.

Egyptian police monitor restaurants considered gay hangouts as well as Web sites catering to homosexuals. Human rights groups and Western diplomats and lawmakers have condemned Egypt for pursuing and trying homosexuals.

In the latest case, the main defendant was arrested in February after his telephone had been bugged for more than a month by officials acting on a tip. The other arrests followed. - Sapa-AP

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