The Queen Boat trial intensified harassment. A new wave of cases in which groups of men were arrested spurred renewed speculation over gay “organizations” and “cults.” Amid tabloid headlines and allegations of orgies, these stories recapitulated the better-known scandal on a smaller scale.
The pattern of both prosecutions and publicity suggests that law enforcement officials read a signal in the Queen Boat case—taking it as an incentive to increasing rigor, or even a route to career advancement. Indeed, one police officer in Giza presided over three group arrests in private apartments (at least two through the same informer’s services), and took in twenty-three victims, within one year.
Police and press exploited fears of homosexual “networks” to assault individual privacy—and to discredit the reality, and demolish the remnants, of gay community.
Magdi, who was arrested and tortured in the al-Azbekiya police station in 1997, went to an abortive celebration in 2001. He told Human Rights Watch, “The birthday party was the worst thing. A friend of mine invited me, a gay friend. Hafez.”167
Hafez was no ordinary friend. Information Human Rights Watch has accumulated suggests that this shadowy figure—”nobody knows his full name, but his nickname was ‘Mishmisha [apricot]’”—recurrently sets men up for arrest. Hafez has worked as an informer in at least two group arrests of gay men in private homes in the Giza governorate (the section of Cairo west of the Nile); he appears to be a favored informer of officer Abdullah Ahmed, of the Giza Vice Squad.
“I knew Hafez,” Magdi relates, “through the Amon disco and the Queen Boat disco. He was a face in the crowd. He was around twenty-eight. I didn’t have any reason to be suspicious of him before this happened”:
Human Rights Watch inspected the court file in this case.168 The investigation report, from officer Abdullah Ahmed of the Giza Vice Squad, states that “Today, while observing the status of public morality, we met one of our secret sources” who informed police that the flat’s owner, “an active pervert,” lived there with three other active perverts, opening his rooms to “passive perverts” for the practice of debauchery. It asks for a warrant to detain seven people: Hafez’s three “pervert” roommates and the four “passive perverts.”169 All are named; all eventually became defendants.170 The arrest of the apartment’s alleged owner, the “active pervert,” is not on the menu of requests.
Magdi says the police “never showed a warrant, just their weapons.”
At the Giza Security Directorate,
At the niyaba, all were charged with “habitual practice of debauchery.”172 The seven then were taken to the al-Haram Police Station. Magdi says,
After more than three weeks in the al-Haram police station, the seven prisoners were moved to the general prison at Mazra’at Tora. Magdi remembers:
The prisoners were freed after over six weeks in detention. “I have no idea why they released us: they didn’t say,” Magdi told us. A trial was held in late 2001. The defendants received six months’ imprisonment.173 Magdi remembers,
Magdi remains in hiding: if he is caught and recognized, the sentence could still be imposed.174
The morning after the first Queen Boat verdict, the story in the state daily Al-Akhbar contained an inset box:
The story signaled that the state's vigilance was still unstinting.
Egyptian activists immediately went to the western districts of Cairo, where they learned the four men were being questioned at the Boulaq al-Dakrour Public Prosecutor's office.176 They were able to speak to one of the men through the bars of a police transport vehicle. In tears, the defendant told of having been stripped and splashed with cold water; beaten with batons; and left hanging by the bars of their jail cell.
Officer Abdullah Ahmed of the Giza Vice Squad was again responsible for the raid. Eighteen months later, Human Rights Watch spoke to one of the now-freed men. Samir, twenty-two at the time of his arrest, explained:
The court file shows officer Ahmed developing a familiar if confused story: told by a “trusted secret source” that homosexual acts were being performed on the premises, officers moved quickly and caught offenders in the act.179
At the Security Directorate, Samir says, they were taken to a room where “there was ‘Morality’ written over the door. Four or five officers came in and beat us. They punched us, slapped us in the face.”
Their trial began in January; at one hearing, Judge Medhat Fahwakih opened the proceedings by demanding, “Where are the khawalat? Bring in the khawalat!”180 On February 3 all were convicted and sentenced to three years of imprisonment followed by three years of police supervision.
An appeal followed. Only at this point did the court refer the two presumed “passive” defendants to the forensic medical authority. In April, almost six months after the arrest, the examination saw “no signs or traces indicating they were taken in sodomy with penetration from a recent or long time.”
In September, the four were found innocent on appeal. Judge Ahmed Omar al-Ahwal threw out the confessions before the police, noting their “style of answering the questions was [too] similar. … It was obvious that it was one person who answered all the questions in a story where incidents did not represent truth in any form.”181
After ten months, the four were free. Samir says,
In late January 2002, as memories of the Queen Boat case subsided, a flurry of articles announced a new scandal in the Delta province of Beheira. Under the headline, “Major network of perverts arrested,” Al-Wafd proclaimed that a
Days later, Al-Osboa headlined the “Beheira Perverts Organization Ringleader’s Confession.” It said the case “caused much popular anger in Beheira; some people tried to kill the suspects while they were being arrested.”184 One co-worker of the “ringleader” in the “strangest case Beheira has ever seen” declared,
“It is a crime for this civil servant to be a civil servant. He is mentally ill. Society should be purged of him and his like.”185
A defense attorney in the case told Human Rights Watch, “It was a festival of humiliation. The newspaper reports created a huge mass of public opinion against the defendants in Damanhour.” 186
Police reports in the case differed from the press accounts, naming five, not eight, defendants, and not alleging an orgy. And in two interviews, the alleged “ringleader” in the case told Human Rights Watch another story: an account of arbitrary arrest and torture.
Gamal (not his real name) is in his forties. He says roundups of homosexuals in Damanhour began in December 2001, after a police bailiff was found murdered. The crime scene yielded evidence of the victim’s homosexuality.187 Gamal told Human Rights Watch, “the police were shocked that someone who worked with them was gay. They found names and numbers of so many gays in Damanhour on his premises, and they wanted to make a case to scare the other gays.”188
“I kept getting summoned to the police station every day and sometimes twice a day to get more information out of me,” Gamal says.190 As the arrests continued, he saw “dozens, maybe hundreds” of men in the station—until “I myself could never have imagined there were so many gay people in Damanhour.”191
Some of the men were beaten severely—”I can’t tell you how terrible it was,” says Gamal.192 On January 1, he attempted suicide, swallowing an overdose of pills, but was revived at the hospital. “I was so worn out by the torture I was seeing that I couldn’t take it anymore.”193
To avoid the daily summons, Gamal began leaving for Alexandria each day after work, returning in the middle of the night. An informer told police, and one night “I found them at the door to my apartment: they said, ‘The officer wants you.’”194
Gamal was taken to the Beheira Security Directorate.195 There, he met the other four defendants in what became his case: they had been arrested separately.
Two officers singled out the five for renewed and intensified torture.
On the day of his arrest, an officer took Gamal back to his own apartment:
Gamal says he saw the niyaba only “fifteen days or so” after his arrest.199
On January 17 all five defendants were ordered to receive a forensic anal examination. Gamal says, “At the Forensic Medical Authority, they showed no interest when I told them about torture. I showed the doctor my wounds, the cigarette burns; you could still see burns from the electricity. He said he was only empowered to look for a specific thing.”201
At successive niyaba hearings, the defendants’ detention was renewed. Ultimately they were transferred to the Damanhour Prison. “We were harshly beaten on arrival by about eight guards. They stripped us fully naked and beat us with their bare hands until we almost fainted. They ran after us with batons.”
“One guard in prison was the most evil among them,” Gamal says:202
Gamal allowed Human Rights Watch to photograph his leg: a year later, it was still covered with scars from cigarette burns.
Gamal’s leg, showing scars of torture inflicted by a Damanhour Prison guard.
Gamal also says that the guard “took me several times to Cell Seven. There the worst criminals were kept with the longest sentences. He told them: ‘Here’s a khawal. Take him for entertainment.’ Something like twenty-five prisoners raped me. They would fuck me three or four times each, sometimes, while they beat and slapped me.”204
The men’s trial was held on March 11, with the defendants still in detention. Judge Mohammed Mokhtar sentenced all five to three years of imprisonment to be followed by three years of police supervision, as well as a fine. Gamal says, “I fainted in court when I heard the verdict.”206
The men were finally released a month later after enduring three months or more of imprisonment. Appeals judge Hany Kamal Gabriel overturned the guilty verdicts in a ruling highly critical of police and prosecutorial practice: “There is no crime or offence that could be pressed against the defendants,” he stated, and admonished that “The protection of freedoms should be placed above the quest for celebrity.” 207
Gamal told Human Rights Watch,
On May 5, 2002, a West Delta newspaper reported a new group of homosexuals had been found and foiled in the city of Tanta:
The article gave the initials, ages, and workplaces of three arrested men—enough to make identifying them easy.
The arrests had in fact taken place six weeks before. The police report in the case accuses the ringleader of “forming a group of Satan-worshippers.”210 Lieutenant Abdel Wahab had obtained a warrant for the arrest of five persons supposedly from the “group”; yet only one of those it named, the apartment owner, was actually arrested or charged. In fact, police used an informer to draw a random collection of men to the apartment—and then tortured them to confess to sexual relations.211
Human Rights Watch spoke to two defendants in the case. Sabir (not his real name), a worker in his thirties, hesitantly told his story.
Sabir found Karim and another friend, Ashraf (not his real name), in the apartment. “They had some bango on the table so I assumed we were all there to smoke.” 213
Abruptly, Tawfiq left again, for the last time.
The apartment owner, Karim, a teacher in his forties, told us,
Karim, seen as the “bottom” among the three, may have received the worst treatment. He told us, “At the Directorate they started beating me and torturing me. They used sticks; they slapped the nape of my neck, and kicked me”:
Weeping uncontrollably, Karim said, “I can’t talk about this. Why do I have to remember this? Why can’t I forget it? It was such a terrible, terrible time. I am so unhappy. They were terrible. Terrible.”
At about 8:30 a.m. the prisoners were taken to Tanta’s second police station. 218 Karim remembers, “I got a hemorrhage there, from the beatings I had received. I was vomiting blood. They said, ‘We don’t care, we hope you die here.’”
On the following evening, they were taken to the niyaba and interrogated separately. Sabir says, “the niyaba started pulling out this underwear—he had it in a box—and showing it to me, asking me, ‘Does Karim wear these things for you?’”
The prosecution report, dated March 25, shows that all three prisoners were charged under article 9(c) of Law 10/1961. Karim did not have a lawyer; he says, “My friends tried to bring one and he refused to go upstairs to join me, because the detectives downstairs shouted, ‘Look at the lawyer who’s come to defend the khawal.’”220
The prisoners were taken from the niyaba to Tanta Prison. Of their days there, Sabir says, “All the prisoners knew about us. The guards when they let us in and out of the cell said, ‘Come here, khawal, go in, khawal, you person who takes it up the ass.’”221 Karim, in tears, told Human Rights Watch, “They shoved food in to us like dogs. It’s very hard for me to tell what goes on there. I can’t. I can’t. People wanting to rape me inside. Khawal. Khawal.”222
At a court hearing on April 11, the prisoners were freed on bail. The trial dragged on for over a year. On May 26, 2003, all were convicted in their absence. Karim was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment; the other two defendants received one year each.223 All are now in hiding.
After his initial release, Karim says, “I was in a state of nervous collapse. I never imagined such a thing could happen.” Once again he began to weep:
Sabir says simply, “I am broken by this. Broken.”225
On August 23, 2002, Al-Wafd announced the “Arrest of twelve youths, six university students among them.” The newspaper alleged that the “number one offender,” owner of the apartment where they met, induced them to “practice debauchery by showing them gay sex movies, and through the Internet.”226
The men had in fact been arrested in an apartment in the Agouza area of Giza, on the night of August 19. Their court file reveals police reports which restage the scenario, and repeat the language, of the al-Haram and Boulaq al-Dakrour cases. The same arresting officer of the Giza Vice Squad constructs a familiar narrative, in which a “trusted secret source” revealed that a “passive sexual pervert by the name of Hafez … manages [an apartment] for immoral acts. He recruits passive sexual perverts to that apartment and they hunt sexual pleasure-seekers who are active homosexuals, and practice sex in this apartment.”227 The “number one offender” fingered by the newspaper is also a familiar figure: the informer Hafez.
According to the court file, police descended on the apartment and caught twelve suspects, two in the act of having sex with each other and the others in suspicious circumstances, some half-dressed.228 According to the file, Hafez was not among them. The records show that one of the twelve arrested was seventeen; the rest were between nineteen and twenty-five-years old.229
Human Rights Watch was able to talk briefly to two of the men in the prison where they are serving their sentences. Speaking quickly and finishing each others' sentences, they told a different story from the police:
Taken to the Agouza niyaba the morning after the arrest, they were split in two groups and interrogated by two prosecutors.231 One of the two, Yasser Khalifa, followed the police model by forcing the prisoners to identify as active or passive. When several said they were both, he grew enraged.232 The prisoners Human Rights Watch interviewed said, “Yasser Khalifa slapped three of us on the face.” 233
They were referred to the Forensic Medical Authority and examined by a single doctor; all were found “taken in sodomy over a long time.” Their detention was repeatedly renewed. Meanwhile, officials leaked their “confessions” to the tabloid Rose al-Youssef, which in September headlined “a new organization of sexual perverts.”234
On October 2 all were referred to trial, charged under article 9(c) of Law 10/1961. Hafez was also referred, as a “fugitive” defendant—charged additionally with managing a house for debauchery, under article 9(b).
On November 12, 2002, all thirteen defendants were sentenced to three years' imprisonment to be followed by three years of police supervision.235 On appeal in early 2003, the sentences against twelve defendants (including Hafez, who however remained at large) were upheld.236
“Mishmisha” is still free. The eleven adults are serving their time together. Two told Human Rights Watch,
One of the men wrote to an Egyptian activist:
In March 2003 the press again blared the “arrest of a homosexual network.”239 Banner headlines called them “perverts who embraced the devil, lost the path of spirituality, and strayed from the straight good path to the ways of hell.” Articles told how wiretaps had stored their words and sealed their fates, and revealed the names, ages, and places of work or study of most of the men. 240
This time the Tourist Police rather than the Vice Squad brought the charges. The case appears to have reached them by accident; once involved, however, officers pursued it in competitive emulation of their Vice Squad colleagues' practices.
The lead defendant, Wael (not his real name), in his mid-thirties, owned a flat in Giza; there, according to one visitor, he'd “have a nice time, a party, some drinking, some dancing … Mainly we were together because we were gay and it seemed safe.”241 Another guest, who became a defendant, says, “I had been to the flat two times … Wael was very normal. I had a drink and left. This talk about sex parties there was not what I heard about the place.”242
Someone complained.243 An occasional guest told us that “a lot of people in the neighborhood and everyone in the building knew that [Wael] was a gay, and they didn't like us. The building man would insult as we came in: ‘Go to hell, khawalat!’“244 Tourist Police headquarters are in Manial, directly over the Nile from Giza and the apartment; apparently the informant simply crossed the bridge to the nearest police station.
The Tourist Police handed the case to their own Morality Intelligence Unit, which functions as an internal Vice Squad. On January 19, 2003, a Giza district judge authorized them to tap the telephone of Wael's flat for thirty days; this was renewed on February 16. By then, however, police had enough information. The head of the Morality Intelligence Unit later told prosecutors that the defendants “practiced debauchery … to the extent that they thought that this is personal freedom.”245 On February 17, the Tourist Police received a warrant to arrest Wael, along with any “men practicing debauchery and sexual perversion who happen to be in the apartment and those for whom there are criminal telephone conversations.” 246
Wael was arrested in the apartment. Nine others were taken from their homes. They included university students, a hotel worker, an actor, and shop employees. In the police account, all admitted to having had sexual relations with men.247 Relatives of Wael told Human Rights Watch at a March 27 trial hearing that he tried to kill himself on his arrest, an account the arrest report confirms.248
In ensuing days, police sought more men, from a full list of sixteen apparently compiled through the wiretaps. One prisoner was induced to call two friends and arrange to meet them at a café in the Mohandiseen district, where they were arrested. Bailiffs were sent to seize another implicated man in the Suez city of Ismailia. In the end, three from the sixteen remained at large, and were tried in absentia.249
Human Rights Watch was able to speak to Yehya, nineteen years old, a defendant ultimately acquitted in the trial.
Meanwhile, at the niyaba, six of the thirteen defendants denied all charges. Others, however, were induced to confess and to implicate others in the case.
The prisoners were taken to the Giza police station and held there through their trial. Despite the publicity, authorities closely controlled access. Families as well as lawyers had no contact with them until the trial began.252 In the station, Yehya told Human Rights Watch,
When a verdict was handed down on April 17, only two defendants were acquitted. The rest had sentences ranging from three and one half years (for Wael) to one year, with most receiving two years.254
Yehya told us,
On July 19, 2003, an appeals court overturned the verdicts against the eleven men who remained in prison. Judge Mo’azer al-Marsafy said: “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 has to acquit all of you.”255
167 Human Rights Watch has changed the first name by which his victims knew him, and suppressed the names he bears in police reports, to protect from retaliation both the informer and those he lured to arrest.
168 Court file, al-Haram Court of Misdemeanors, on file at Human Rights Watch.
169 The investigation report (written by Abdullah Ahmed of the Vice Squad) requesting an arrest warrant for persons in the flat, is dated September 6, 2001 at 8 a.m. A warrant was issued by the Giza niyaba at 8:30 a.m. the same day. A report relating the subsequent arrests (written by officer Ehab al Attar) is dated September 6 at 10:30 a.m. The times (oddly early for a midnight raid) suggest that the request, and the warrant, were written after the arrests had actually been conducted the night before.
170 Magdi told Human Rights Watch that none of the other men arrested lived in the flat, and that “I can’t tell you for sure that Hafez did. He didn’t seem at home there.”
171 Abdullah Ahmed's arrest reports in successive cases repeat the same situation and language. This one gives the basic formula, complete with seizures of “fear and panic” inducing instant confessions by the arrested men:
The police arrest report divides the men (the six above and a seventh whose location in the flat is unclear) into three active and four passive “perverts.” It states that all unhesitatingly confessed to having or planning to have sex in the flat, and notes that the “passive perverts” were to be reimbursed with sums of between 30LE and 50LE. (Magdi denies that any of the seven were at the apartment to engage in commercial sex, or that they confessed to it during questioning. Indeed, he says, “They didn’t ask us about money at all: they just said we were khawalat.”)
When the men were taken to the Security Directorate, the arrest report records that all admitted being “sexual perverts”: however, only the passive partners were charged under article 9(c), while the three active partners simply signed the report without notification of a charge. This indicates that the Giza police were uncertainly turning to arrests for heterosexual prostitution as a template since, in such arrests, the woman (the equivalent of the “passive” partner) would ordinarily be charged while the “active” “pleasure-seeker” would go free and simply be enlisted as a witness. When all seven were sent to the prosecution the next day, however, a clearer understanding of the different nature of fujur cases from that of prostitution cases prevailed. The prosecution report in the official file shows that the niyaba never asked the defendants about financial reward—the allegations of a 30LE to –50LE fee simply disappear from the case at this point; and all seven defendants, whether active or passive, were charged there with the habitual practice of debauchery.
This may reflect the confusion of al-Haram officers about whether fujur necessitated a financial element, a point corrected by the niyaba's more current legal understanding. By 2001, police at downtown precincts such as Qasr al-Nil or Abdin would have known through experience that homosexual conduct in itself was sufficient to impose criminal penalties.
172 “Hafez,” the alleged owner of the apartment, had vanished and was not accused in any of the police reports. However, the prosecution added him to the case as a defendant—charging him with “employing” and “inducing” other defendants to practice debauchery, and with “opening and managing” a place for debauchery, under other provisions of Law 10/1961. Charging him also meant that, though free, he would subsist under the menace of legal action— a way of putting a lien on his liberty and ensuring his future cooperation.
173 Hafez, tried in absentia with the other seven, was sentenced to an additional year when convicted of the additional charges he faced under Law 10/1961.
174 Human Rights Watch interview with Magdi, Cairo, Egypt, March 2, 2003.
175 “And a den of perverts uncovered in Haram!” Al-Akhbar, November 15, 2001. A similar article appeared in Al-Goumhoreya the same day.
176 Boulaq al-Dakrour is a district of Giza, in the western suburbs of Cairo. Since the case was tried in a Boulaq al-Dakrour court, the defendants became known in international coverage as the “Boulaq Four.”
177 Human Rights Watch has changed his first name to protect his identity.
178 Human Rights Watch interview with Samir (not his real name), Cairo, Egypt, April 3, 2003.
179 As usual, these documents reward closer perusal. The investigations report, written once again by Abdullah Ahmed and dated November 12, 2001 at 7:10 p.m., states that the Giza Vice Squad “received information from one of our trusted secret sources that a number of active and passive sexual perverts frequent a furnished apartment at [address], and, on pursuing further investigations, we learned that Reda … (also known as Fairouz) who is a passive pervert, is renting an apartment … for the practice of vice. As he was in the apartment, the second passive sexual pervert [Samir] came, and a little while later, two active sexual perverts, arrived, and they arranged to practice vice for a financial reward. “He obtains an arrest warrant from Prosecutor Khaled al-Daba on the same evening at 7:30. Abdullah Ahmed's report on the arrests is dated that evening at 10 p.m. The compressed time frame is improbable: it would be difficult to stake out an apartment, seize the occupants, and interrogate all four between 7:30 and 10 p.m. The officer's description of “perverts’” arrivals in the apartment suggests the text was written after the arrests, not before. In fact, the prisoner in the police transport vehicle told activists they had been arrested on November 10, not November 12; moreover, Samir told Human Rights Watch that he signed an arrest report not hours but “maybe… even a day or so” after his arrest, and that “perhaps four days” passed after their arrest before they were taken to the niyaba. All this suggests that reports and warrant were concocted at least two days after the arrests.
The arrest report, also written by Ahmed, deploys the basic narrative and much of the language of the al-Haram arrests, with extended knocks at the door, discovery in flagrante, “astonishment,”and ashamed admissions:
The defendants allegedly expanded on their confessions. The two acknowledge that they pay 20LE [approximately US$ 4] for sexual relations and that Reda receives 10LE—the police again attempting, as in the al-Haram case, to assimilate a debauchery case to the template of prostitution cases. (Samir told Human Rights Watch that police “asked us if we had done it for money. They called it 'business.' 'Cute girl,' the police would ask us: “is it for business or for fun?' We said, for fun, for pleasure. They didn’t believe us. They didn’t think you could do it for pleasure.” However, exactly as in the al-Haram case, all questions about the alleged financial element disappear completely in the subsequent interrogation record at the niyaba.)
Here a conspicuous discrepancy intervenes. In a (heterosexual) prostitution case, the person allegedly rendering payment would escape arrest in Egypt. Debauchery convictions require no financial element, and both partners are criminalized. Here, however, the two “actives” who allegedly pay are in fact charged by police with “violating articles of Law 10/1961 by practicing active fujur with men with no distinction for money”—as if they had received compensation rather than paid! The officers seem both to be torn incoherently between their customary conduct of prostitution cases and a dim consciousness that in debauchery cases both parties are culpable.
In a further paradox, the two “actives” also confess to sexual relations with Reda, and are charged with “indecent assault” against him; Reda, however, is charged with debauchery as a result. Arrest report in court file, Boulaq al-Dakrour Court of Misdemeanors, on file at Human Rights Watch.
180 See International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission Action Alert, “The 'Boulak Four': Europe and the US Bankroll Brutality Abroad,” February 7, 2002, at http://www.iglhrc.org/php/section.php?id=5&detail=83. In the end, all four defendants were charged with the habitual practice of debauchery, and Reda with running a house for the purpose of debauchery.
181 Verdict by Judge Ahmed Omar al-Ahwal, Boulaq-al-Dakrour Court of Appeals, September 23, 2002, on file at Human Rights Watch.
182 Human Rights Watch interview with Samir, Cairo, Egypt, April 3, 2003.
183 Mohammed Salah, “Major Network of Perverts Arrested in Beheira: Social Security Employee Turned His Home Into a Lair of Perversion,” Al-Wafd, January 20, 2002.
184 “Al-Osboa Met His Ex-Wife and his Neighbours: The Text of the Beheira Perverts Organization Ringleader’s Confession,” Al-Osboa, January 28, 2002.
186 Human Rights Watch interview with attorney Maher Naim, Alexandria, Egypt, February 28, 2003.
187 Human Rights Watch interview with Gamal, Damanhour, Egypt, April 11, 2003.
188 Human Rights Watch interview with Gamal, Alexandria, Egypt, April 18, 2003. Gamal told Human Rights Watch he learned this from police but also from the killers themselves, who were eventually caught and confessed, and whom he encountered in detention.
189 Human Rights Watch interview with Gamal, Alexandria, Egypt, April 18, 2003.
191 Human Rights Watch interview with Gamal, Damanhour, Egypt, April 11, 2003.
193 Human Rights Watch interview with Gamal, Alexandria, Egypt, April 18, 2003.
194 Human Rights Watch interview with Gamal, Damanhour, Egypt, April 11, 2003.
195 He believes his arrest occurred on January 5 or 6—not January 17, as stated in the arrest report: Human Rights Watch interview with Gamal, Alexandria, Egypt, April 18, 2003.
196 Human Rights Watch interview with Gamal, Damanhour, Egypt, April 11, 2003.
198 Ibid. Attorney Maher Naim told Human Rights Watch that Gamal’s ex-wife’s belongings were the “nightgowns” and “lipstick” which press and police reports claimed were used in transvestite parties. Human Rights Watch interview with attorney Maher Naim, Alexandria, Egypt, February 28, 2003.
199 Human Rights Watch interview with Gamal, Damanhour, Egypt, April 11, 2003. The case file reports that the detainees saw Prosecutor Yassin Zaghloul at 11:30 a.m. on January 17, allegedly the morning following their arrest. If Gamal is correct in asserting they were arrested on January 5 or 6, this would mean an eleven-day delay.
200 Human Rights Watch interview with Gamal, Alexandria, Egypt, April 18, 2003.
201 Human Rights Watch interview with Gamal, Damanhour, Egypt, April 11, 2003. A prosecution report records the arrival of the forensic results on January 22: Dr. Gamal Abdel Raziq of the Forensic Medical Authority “found that all five defendants are habitually used in sodomy from behind for a long time that is difficult to specify scientifically. We sent the confiscated material [presumably the clothes from the apartment] to the medical laboratories of the Forensic Medical Authority in Cairo to search for semen.” A report dated February 19 shows that the forensic laboratories found no traces of semen on the clothing. Case file, Bandar Damanhour Court of Misdemeanors, on file at Human Rights Watch.
202 Human Rights Watch interview with Gamal, Alexandria, Egypt, April 18, 2003.
203 Human Rights Watch interview with Gamal, Damanhour, Egypt, April 11, 2003.
204 Human Rights Watch interview with Gamal, Alexandria, Egypt, April 18, 2003.
205 Human Rights Watch interview with Gamal, Damanhour, Egypt, April 11, 2003. Defense attorney Maher Naim told Human Rights Watch circumspectly, “The abuses of the accused during the time of detention accompanied the general atmosphere of revulsion, and was not sanctioned by the nation or by justice procedures. It violated human rights. The source of that abuse was personal motives on the part of some policemen, who felt revulsion and disgust toward these defendants.” Human Rights Watch interview with attorney Maher Naim, Alexandria, Egypt, February 28, 2003.
206 Human Rights Watch interview with Gamal, Damanhour, Egypt, April 11, 2003.
207 Verdict by Judge Hany Kamal Gabriel, Damanhour Court of Appeals, April 13, 2002, on file at Human Rights Watch. The judge evaluated the evidentiary requirements of the debauchery law with unusual exactitude: “Especially since the two defendants were not arrested in flagrante, the public prosecutor should have provided evidence . . . As for the third charge [that all the defendants habitually practiced debauchery], the arresting officer did not arrest the defendants while they were practicing debauchery and sexual perversion. What the arresting officer confiscated in the apartment of the first defendant—i.e., nightgowns, lipsticks—are not items the possession of which is criminalized. … The court has no confidence in the confessions of the defendants in the arrest report, because all the defendants denied them when they were referred to the public prosecutor. The court does not rely on what the defendants said about having practiced debauchery over a long time, because the forensic medical report stated that the signs found around the anus of each defendant point to their habitual use in sodomy from behind for a long time that is difficult to specify. In addition, no traces of semen were found on the confiscated material. And even if defendants practiced debauchery at an early date with others, they cannot be punished for an act committed in the [indefinite] past, particularly in the absence of the habituality component. The public prosecutor should have registered in the papers that there is no justification for filing a criminal case, especially inasmuch as the papers contained a defamation of the defendants.”
208 Human Rights Watch interview with Gamal, Damanhour, Egypt, April 11, 2003.
209 “The pervert teacher brings shame to his sex: Puts on makeup and women’s clothes to attract men,” Hawadeth al-Gharbeya, May 5, 2002.
210 Police report dated May 20, 2002, in case file, Tanta Second Misdemeanors Court, on file at Human Rights Watch.
211 The process took five days. The other two arrested men had not been listed in the warrant.
212 Human Rights Watch interview with Sabir (not his real name), Tanta, Egypt, March 8, 2003.
213 Bango, or marijuana buds, is widely consumed though illegal in Egypt.
214 A slap to the nape of the neck is considered particularly humiliating. Human Rights Watch interview with Karim (not his real name), Tanta, Egypt, April 26, 2003.
215 The arrest report, written by Yasser Abdel Hamid, deputy head of the Morality Department, states in terms reminiscent of the al-Haram and Boulaq Dakrour arrests:
216 Human Rights Watch interview with Sabir, Tanta, Egypt, March 8, 2003.
217 Human Rights Watch interview with Karim, Tanta, Egypt, April 26, 2003.
218 Tanta has two police stations: one is in the same complex as the Gharbeya Security Directorate. The prisoners were taken to the other station, which covers the area in which they were arrested.
219 Human Rights Watch interview with Sabir, Tanta, Egypt, March 8, 2003.
220 Human Rights Watch interview with Karim, Tanta, Egypt, April 26, 2003.
221 Human Rights Watch interview with Sabir, Tanta, Egypt, March 8, 2003.
222 Human Rights Watch interview with Karim, Tanta, Egypt, April 26, 2003.
223 Verdict by Judge Munir Wafiq, May 26, 2003, Tanta Court of Misdemeanors.
225 Human Rights Watch interview with Sabir, Tanta, Egypt, March 8, 2003.
226 “Arrest of twelve youths, six university students among them,” Al-Wafd, August 22, 2002.
227 Investigations report dated August 19, 2002, 11 p.m., by Captain Abdullah Ahmed, Giza Vice Squad, in court file, Agouza Court of Misdemeanors, on file at Human Rights Watch. Human Rights Watch has again changed the name of the informer in the report.
228 It is worth comparing the language of the arrest report to that of the previous cases. Abdullah Ahmed writes, “We knocked on the door for a long time. A young man opened the door. He was astonished when he saw us. We revealed our identities, the nature of our mission, and the arrest warrant issued by the public prosecution. We arrested him and entered the hall of the apartment, we saw seven sexual perverts sitting on the sofa or the floor, hugging each other; some of them were bare-chested. They all looked astonished when they saw us. We calmed them down and arrested them. We opened the door of the first room, and saw one active sexual perverts on top of a naked young man in the course of a complete sexual act. They both looked astonished when they saw us. We allowed them to put their clothes on and confiscated the green bedsheet which had traces of semen. We arrested them and entered the second bedroom: we saw two sexual perverts fully dressed hugging each other, and we arrested them.” (The arrest warrant, granted at 12:30 a.m. by Agouza prosecutor Ayman ‘Adel, was “to search the apartment and arrest anyone inside the apartment committing acts that violate law 10/1961”, which even by the police account covered only two of the guests.) All the men confess. Six identify as “passive sexual perverts,” six as active, pairing them off neatly. There is no mention whatsoever of Hafez, though the convicted men Human Rights Watch interviewed reported that he was taken to the Directorate with them.
In the interrogation report, officers do not record defendants making any reference to Hafez, or to his having invited them to the apartment—curious given that the investigations report had named him as the chief recruiter. Arrest report, dated 3 a.m., August 20, 2002, by officer Abdullah Ahmed, Giza Vice Squad, in court file, Agouza Court of Misdemeanors, on file at Human Rights Watch.
229 At least one of men was facing his second trial. He had been caught up earlier in the Queen Boat case, though ultimately acquitted.
230 Human Rights Watch interview with two prisoners who asked not to be named, Borg al-Arab Prison, March 16, 2003.
231 According to the prosecution interrogation records, five of the defendants denied all charges and retracted their alleged confessions to police. Two allegedly told prosecutors that they took 20LE to 30LE (US$ 4 to US$6 at the time) in exchange for sex. Four confessed to non-commercial sexual relations with other men; the interrogation record of the twelfth is missing. The seventeen year-old boy is reported as saying “I was arrested because I am a khawal,” but stating that he only slept with a friend in the neighborhood, which should have made it impossible to prove the element of indiscriminacy (sexual relations with more than one person). No other defendant was charged with having sexual relations with the seventeen-year-old.
Prosecutor Yasser Khalifa misstated the boy's age as nineteen on the charge sheet, which ultimately led to his trial as an adult. The police interrogation report also alleged that the boy and another defendant confessed to sexual relations with one another, but the niyaba did not pursue these confessions and the defendants later retracted them. It is perhaps a sign of the lack of seriousness with which police themselves took these confessions and their obligation to child protection that, even at the Security Directorate, the more serious charges of inciting a juvenile to debauchery under Art. 2(b) of Law 10/1961, or of indecent assault on a juvenile under Art. 269 of the Criminal Code—carrying penalties of five and seven years respectively—were not preferred or, apparently, considered.
232 Human Rights Watch interview with Helmi al-Rawi, a defense attorney in the case, Cairo, Egypt, April 19, 2003.
233 Human Rights Watch interview with two prisoners who asked not to be named, Borg al-Arab Prison, Alexandria Governorate, Egypt, March 16, 2003. At an October 2 hearing, a defense attorney presented this fact before the judge deciding on the renewal of their detention, but the judge did not order an investigation. Human Rights Watch interview with attorney Helmi al-Rawi, Cairo, Egypt, April 19, 2003.
234 “They call themselves girls' names,” Rose al-Youssef, September 14-20, 2002. The tabloid drew on “social experts” to condemn the victims. One interviewee, Dr. Ahmed al-Magdoub of the National Center for Social and Criminal Research declared that “in Egypt [homosexuality] is only practiced by a few, and sadly they use high technology—computer and mobiles—to get in touch …Gay people should be outcast.”
235 Verdict by Judge Mohieddin 'Atris, November 12, 2002, Agouza Court of Misdemeanors, on file at Human Rights Watch. The judge specifically cited the Cassation Court precedent (see chapter II) that debauchery need not entail financial reward. The appeals judge later ordered the child’s verdict voided since he had been tried as an adult. Prosecutors sought a retrial for the child. On April 13, in a juvenile court, he was sentenced to two years.
236 Verdict by Judge Taher al-Sukkari, February 23, 2002, Agouza Court of Misdemeanors Appeals, on file at Human Rights Watch.
237 Human Rights Watch interview with two prisoners who asked not to be named, Borg al-Arab Prison, Alexandria Governorate, Egypt, March 16, 2003. It is unclear whether these measures were intended to protect the prisoners or to isolate them as a moral threat to others and thus magnify the stigma they face, as was apparently true of the measures directed against Queen Boat detainees in Mazra'at Tora. Placing prisoners, collectively or individually, and even for their own “protection,” in an environment of complete isolation ordinarily reserved to punish disciplinary infractions is an unacceptable solution. Under international standards, no prisoner shall be punished except for a stipulated disciplinary offense. See “United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners,” articles 8 and 30, U.N. Doc. A/CONF/611, annex I, E.S.C. res. 663C, 24 U.N. ESCOR Supp. (No. 1) at 11, U.N. Doc E/3048 (1957), amended E.S.C. res. 2076, 62 U.N. ESCOR Supp. (No. 1) at 35, U.N. Doc E/5988 (1977).
238 Letter from an anonymous prisoner at Borg al-Arab prison, June 28, 2003.
239 “Arrest of a homosexual network,” Al-Wafd, February 24, 2003.
240 “25 homosexuals—in a debauchery group,” Al-Goumhoreya, March 8, 2003.
241 Human Rights Watch interview with Tawfiq (not his real name), Cairo, Egypt, April 18, 2003.
242 Human Rights Watch interview with Yehya (not his real name), Cairo, Egypt, April 30, 2003.
243 The Tourist Police investigations report simply states that “we received information” that the defendant “manages an apartment for the practice of debauchery”: Investigation report, General Administration of Tourist and Antiquities Police (Tourist Police), January 19, 2003, 10 a.m., in court file, al-Giza Court of Misdemeanors, on file at Human Rights Watch.
244 Human Rights Watch interview with Tawfiq (not his real name), Cairo, Egypt, April 18, 2003.
245 Interrogation report by Prosecutor Issam al-Doweini, February 21, 2003, 5 p.m., in court file, al-Giza Court of Misdemeanors, on file at Human Rights Watch
246 Investigations report by Captain Ahmed Kishk, head of the Morality Intelligence Unit, Tourist Police, February 17, 2003, 9 a.m., in court file, al-Giza Court of Misdemeanors, on file at Human Rights Watch.
247 Several, however, insisted they had only had “face to face perversion,” saying, “I have never practiced debauchery from behind.”
248 The arrest report claims that Wael refused medical attention after slashing his wrist with a shard of glass from a coffee table. Arrest report by Captain Ahmed Kishk, head of the Morality Intelligence Unit, Tourist Police, February 19, 2003, 5 p.m., in court file, al-Giza Court of Misdemeanors, on file at Human Rights Watch.
249 Activists from the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights were able to interview one of the defendants tried in absentia while he was in hiding. He told them he had never visited Wael’s apartment, but had received the telephone number from a friend and had called occasionally to chat. Police overheard their conversations through the wiretap. He was convicted at the first trial. Interview by the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights with a defendant who requested not to be identified, Cairo, Egypt, June 20, 2003.
250 The forensic reports ultimately found that none of the defendants had “signs affirming they were taken from behind in sodomy in a distant or recent time” but offered the usual qualifications, that “outside sexual contact,” or sodomy “with consent, taking the correct position, or using lubricants” could escape notice. This is the only forensic report Human Rights Watch has seen—among almost 100 inspected—in which the term “outside sexual contact” or a reference to non-penetrative sex is included. Since several defendants had confessed to “face to face” sexual contact only, it appears the forensic doctors colluded with prosecutors, adjusting their language to confirm the charges against the defendants.
251 Human Rights Watch interview with Yehya (not his real name), Cairo, Egypt, April 30, 2003.
252 Human Rights Watch interview with Helmi al-Rawi, a defense attorney in the case, Cairo, Egypt, April 19, 2003. A Human Rights Watch representative accompanied al-Rawi to the Giza police station on March 11, 2003, and witnessed him being turned away. Defense attorneys were not permitted to examine the case files until the day before the first trial hearing on March 16—giving them twenty-four hours to familiarize themselves with 200 pages of material. The wiretap transcripts, reportedly totaling another 200 pages, were never entered into the court record or made available to the defense: see court file on file at Human Rights Watch, and interview with Helmi al-Rawi, Cairo, Egypt, April 19, 2003.
253 Human Rights Watch interview with Yehya, Cairo, Egypt, April 30, 2003.
254 When the case finally went to trial, the sixteen defendants (three tried in absentia) faced an unusual chain of charges. All were accused under article 9(c) of Law 10/1961; Wael was also charged with “managing a house” for debauchery, under article 8. However, each of the defendants was charged under article 1(a) of the law, which punishes “inciting,” “assisting,” “facilitating,” or “employing” others to commit debauchery. And all the defendants were also charged under article 1(b), which punishes inciting, assisting, facilitating, or employing a person under 21 to commit debauchery—since four were between 19 and 21. Even those four were charged with inciting, assisting, facilitating, or employing one another.
255 E-mail communication to Scott Long, Human Rights Watch, from an attorney who wished to remain anonymous, July 21, 2003; see Human Rights Watch press release, “Egypt: Homosexual Prosecutions Overturned,” July 22, 2003.