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V. Exploiting Solitude: Entrapment Over the Internet

A. Raoul’s Story

Raoul—the name he used on the Internet—was hardworking but had charm. Through his computer, he reached out to new friends who might not otherwise know he existed. Yet he possessed a virtue endearing him to many of the lonely men he contacted through their personals ads, or chatted with on instant messaging services: people interested him. Even without physically meeting him, some found themselves falling in love with an interlocutor who wanted so acutely to learn about their lives.

In late 2002, Raoul read a personals ad posted by Amgad, a young professional in his twenties, living with his parents in Upper Egypt, secretive about his sexuality and achingly lonely. Raoul reached out to Amgad, who wrote back by e-mail:

I'll start my first message to you by saying that it's my pleasure to write to you, and to be your friend. You seem to be a very good romantic nice guy … Feel free to call me at any time, BUT remember that my family doesn't know anything about me being gay, so—we'll talk just as friends. I know you'll appreciate my situation.

They began “conversing” computer-to-computer over an instant message program.256 Like many gay men in Egypt, Raoul seemed careful. He wanted to see the faces of men he chatted with, so Amgad sent photos, looking sober and serious in suit and tie. Raoul told about his own past, and asked detailed questions about Amgad's sexual history. Soon, Amgad was sending rhapsodic e-mails to

I’ve never told someone the things I told you yesterday, I always keep my feelings concealed in my heart, but I couldn’t hide them from you. …

Raoul’s responses left Amgad still more persuaded he had found true love. A few days later Amgad wrote:

I was rewarded

for being good

for having good intentions

and a faithful soul

I was rewarded

and YOU are my reward …

I waited

waited for someone

someone exactly like you

Oh God is so merciful to send you to me257

Not long after writing that, Amgad left for Cairo, full of hope, to meet Raoul.

In the end, though, Raoul did not appear for his encounter with Amgad. This was not because he suffered panic or second thoughts. It was because Raoul did not exist.

Instead, Amgad found himself surrounded by police as he waited in Tahrir Square, dragged to police headquarters, and placed under arrest. His very loneliness made him a victim of the Cairo Vice Squad's latest device to snare men suspected of having sex with men: the use of informers or undercover policemen on the Internet. Underlying Raoul's concerned but disingenuous curiosity, in the end, was a detective's unromantic attention to detail.

B. Sex, Lies, and Cyberspace: Identities of an Entrapper

Human Rights Watch knows the names of forty-six men arrested and brought to trial for homosexual conduct since early 2001 after they were entrapped by police over the Internet. In all likelihood this figure is only a fraction of the whole. The evidence presented in these cases is typically still more confused and inconclusive than in other “debauchery” cases—yet men are sent to prison as police and prosecutors rarely question even gross misapplications of Egyptian law.

The Internet came to Egypt in 1993, with a user community of no more than 2000 persons.258 Frayed phone lines and steep connection fees slowed its spread, yet by the decade's end an estimated half million Egyptians accessed the Net.259 On January 1, 2002, a loudly-trumpeted era of “free” Internet access began; users could log on at ordinary phone rates, which the state telephone company would divide with private Internet service providers (ISPs).260 Usage soared.

Josh, a US citizen long living in Cairo, whose partner Wissam Toufiq Abyad was entrapped over the Internet, says that by the turn of the millennium, many urban gay Egyptians “lived in a wired world; their friends were wired; they carried on social life through it.”261 The new medium offered multiple chances for interaction. There were websites where one could post a personals ad. Some were for gay and straight people, some just for men seeking men; most were password-protected and membership-only. There were Internet “chatrooms” where one could “meet” people and “converse” over the screen. Many gay websites had country-specific chatrooms; in the “Egypt” room at such a site, a man from Cairo could get to know the men next door, with anonymity ensured and actual geography obscured. There were instant messaging services which let one “chat” computer-to-computer with anyone who had the same program. For those rich enough to afford it (the increasing cheapness of access was only relative) the mechanics of the Net, with its masking of faces and places and its promise of spigoted control over self-revelation, seemed seamlessly suited to the closeted.

The Queen Boat trial and the accompanying press scandal changed the character of gay Cairo and cyberspace alike. “The city just shut down,” one man says. 262 Another told Human Rights Watch that “Gays have become really terrified”: “They don’t go out, don’t go anywhere. They are alone.”263

Josh believes the atmosphere of fear “enhanced the numbers of people who were chatting just to seek friends: they felt they had no place to go anymore. All of that died. They were lonely, and the Net was a consolation. People got online chatting instead, trying to figure out other ways to meet.”264

With parties defunct and pubs deserted, however, chances for face-to-face conversation also receded, giving way to a ghost-world of impersonation rather than intimacy, of pseudonyms and evasions. Men rarely revealed the actual exigencies of their lives, much less discussed political conditions around them, over the Web. The situations where men at risk might warn other men of dangers, and be believed, grew fewer. Many of the men chatting faced a gathering loneliness in the grey, real world, while on the Web, circumlocutions and secrecy became the rule. As both community and communication ebbed, isolated, desperate men became easy police prey.

Entrapment of men over the Internet began even before the Queen Boat case. The first arrest known to Human Rights Watch occurred in January, 2001; two men were entrapped by a man claiming to be a Swiss gay visiting Cairo. Arrested at the meeting place, they were sentenced to three months' imprisonment.265 On March 5, 2001, the tabloid Al-Naba’ announced the arrest of two men in Tahrir Square, seized while waiting to meet potential partners whom they had encountered through Internet ads. “We believe,” it declared, “we must use more and more restrictive surveillance of the Internet, and strengthen laws concerning this matter to prevent people from such actions.”266

Anxiety about the Internet was plainly growing in official circles. Unconfirmed reports spread of new Internet monitoring units in the Ministry of the Interior.267 In May 2002, General Abdel Wahab al-Adly, head of the Vice Squad within the Ministry, stated that nineteen homosexuals had been arrested through the Internet: “It was great arresting them.”268 Another Interior Ministry official said, “We are dealing with a different type of criminal and the spread of new crimes … This requires security and technical expertise to be able to patrol the Internet the same way we patrol Egyptian streets.”269

The pace of arrests has accelerated. One lawyer working on such cases told Human Rights Watch in March 2003 that “the number has increased till the arrests this firm knows of have reached a rate of roughly one per week.”270

“Raoul” is not the only pseudonym used by police informers over the Internet. At least two men have been lured to arrests by one purporting to be “Wael Samy.” A number of men were entrapped in 2003 by an agent calling himself “Dennis.” Raoul himself takes on different personae with different cybercontacts. Sometimes he says he is a native Cairene; sometimes, aware that many Egyptian gays feel safer in the company of foreigners, he claims to be Spanish, Italian, Swedish, or Russian. Mahmoud, arrested through Raoul in mid-2002, told us, “He described himself as an Italian working in Cairo, newly arrived, has no friends and wanted to meet and get introduced to other gay friends. … We spoke [a] few times over the phone, I could swear that person was an Italian, he had a very strong Italian accent and he spoke very well English.”271

Sometimes, indeed, the Raouls show a sinister sense of irony. When one victim, Ehab, who worked in the arts, asked Raoul what his favorite opera was, he replied, “Die Fledermaus”: a Viennese work about entrapment which ends in a prison cell.272 And Raoul makes a double-edged commitment in arranging one meeting:

Raoul says: and I promise u 2 things

Incubus says: which r?

Raoul says: first I will make u so happy

Raoul says: second u will never forget me273

Several police agents probably impersonate Raoul, and possibly at least one gay foreigner living in Cairo has been entrapped or blackmailed into working for the police. Whatever his true identity or identities, certain consistencies underlie Raoul's approaches. He asks his interlocutors to chat with him on an instant messaging service—where a record of the chat can easily be downloaded as a text file (and introduced, eventually, into a court file). He asks about the victim's sex life, cognizant that a conviction for “habitual practice of debauchery” requires sexual relations with more than one man within three years. In January 2002, “Wael Samy” answered a personals listing which a lonely twenty-three year-old from the Delta city of Ismailia had placed on the website The young man, Zaki Saad Zaki, began corresponding with Wael, who lured him into offering a detailed description of his first sexual experience:

Dearest Wael,

It is always so fulfilling to hear from you ‘cause your e-mails are full of sincere emotions and feelings although they are always too short. I am also so happy to know that my emails give you such pleasure. …

Well, this time, as you’ve requested, I’ll try to give you an account of what happened during my first and only sex experience which happened about six years ago, hoping you can e-mail me with yours next time.274

“Finally, thank you once again for your precious time and hope to hear from you very soon,” Zaki wrote, closing, “Lots of love.” He went to Cairo to meet Wael Samy three days later, and was arrested.275

Amgad, whom Raoul entrapped in late 2002, told us his story:

I had been chatting with people on the Internet for two years or so. I knew nothing about gay society in Cairo. The town where I live is a very simple place, and I come from a conservative and Christian background. … I wasn’t looking for a relationship or sex, but friendship. If anything more happened, if I fell in love with someone who fell in love with me, that would be wonderful, but I wanted friends.

When I met Raoul I was already growing bored with chatting—that’s the irony. I was starting to feel I wanted more than the people I met there. And this man—I don’t know what happened. I became attracted to him from the way he wrote to me, the person he seemed to be. I was so lonely. He said he was Swedish, his name was Sevensen, he worked in the Ericsson company. “Raoul,” he said, was his favorite football player. …

We chatted for more than a month. I called him on the mobile number he gave me. We only spoke a few words: his English was not very good, with what I now think was an Arabic accent. …

In September, I thought of going to visit him in Cairo. I thought he was a true friend. Perhaps I thought he was the true friend, the one who really understood me. I was really very excited to meet him. I thought this would be the great experience of my life.

Then I went to Cairo. He had given me an address in Tahrir Square.276

C. Arrest and Interrogation

I was standing just inside the building. A man came up to me and asked, “Where are you going?” I said, to Sevensen’s flat. Suddenly, seven or eight men were surrounding me. They said, “Come with us.” They said not to make a scene, or I’d be humiliated publicly. This had never happened to me before in my life. I went into the car quietly. …They took me to the very big building in Tahrir called the Mugamma`. They pushed my head down on the thirteenth floor, so I couldn’t see where I was going or what was this place. It was about 6:30 p.m. They kept me standing for some time, just to make me more—scared. … Then they took me to a small room and started asking me questions.277

That is Amgad’s story. Amir, twenty-three years old, arrested a few weeks later, says,

We were to meet at Hardee's [restaurant] in Tahrir Square at 12:00. He called me as I stood there. I saw a guy across the street: he was looking at me. He didn’t have a phone. The man on the phone said, “I’m there.” I said, “I’m here, too.” He said, “I can’t see you: what are you wearing?” I told him. The same second, the guy was crossing the street and then he grabbed my arm. And then there were four guys. Two grabbed my arms and another grabbed my belt, while one of them asked me for my ID. … They took me across the square to the Mugamma`, to the thirteenth floor.278

Generally Raoul prefers to meet his victims in Tahrir Square, within walking distance of the Vice Squad offices in the Mugamma`. Sometimes, however, he sets appointments elsewhere. Wissam Toufiq Abyad, a Lebanese citizen, was arrested on January 16, 2003:

It started when I was waiting for that guy I chatted with on the Internet a couple of days before that day, right in front of McDonald’s of Merghany, Heliopolis near where I live. It was almost 1 p.m., when I found four big guys surrounding me. …I was fighting and yelling in the street “Who are you? What do you want from [me]? Let me go, please.” A security guy from McDonald’s came to them asking who they were and what I did. The general ordered him to back off and said, “It’s not your business.” I was dragged, almost carried to the police car. While they were pushing me inside, one of these guards were [sic] trying to steal my watch. He was pulling it out of my wrist. I started yelling “You robbers.” … He didn’t take it, but he broke it. … I was taken to “Mugamma.” The 13th floor. The “Adab” Section, which takes care of prostitution, raping, and recently homosexuality.279

At the Mugamma`, confused prisoners are often led to believe they are involved in a security case. Amgad told us,

They asked me how long I had known this man … They told me this guy was an Israeli spy. They said he would have sex with me, then take photographs of me and then threaten me and make me work for Israel. …They started to ask about other guys I know. The older one said: If you tell the truth, you’ll get out of this. So I said, I know a few gay people. He asked for names and addresses. I said I only knew the names they used on the Internet, not where they lived. … You must understand. Being scared is not the word, even. I’d never seen the inside of these stations. But because they didn’t hurt me physically, it doesn’t mean they didn’t hurt me: don’t imagine they treated me with respect. My whole world was falling down around me.

I told them all about my gay life, such as it was—the friendships I had made over the Internet and why they were important to me. Then they looked at each other and said something like, “We will make this only a personal relationship case.” Now I realize how funny they thought it was to lead me on this way.

The thing is, they didn’t blink. They didn’t feel that doing this would destroy a whole life. They caught me because I am gay, but they didn’t even think that my future could be destroyed. I am not rich, I cannot leave the country or start my life over. … And they didn’t feel anything. Anything. Can you understand what they were thinking? I cannot.280

Omar, arrested with a friend when both went to meet Raoul in late 2001, says, “The officer who interrogated me claimed [he was] a State Security officer. He said that all he wanted was for me to confess that I was gay. He said this is ‘personal freedom’ and that if I confessed they would inform State Security and let me go immediately.”281

Other prisoners have been beaten to make them sign an arrest report. Amir recalls officers “asked me who I knew who was gay”:

I didn’t give any names. … The man said, “We’re looking for members of this political organization. We believe you when you say you don’t belong: if you sign this, you can prove it and we will let you go.” I didn’t agree. So I was pushed and slapped. The guard hit me on the face and shoulders—I don’t know for how long, but long enough. In the end, they made me sign the chat and the picture.282

Abdullah, nineteen years old when arrested in May 2002, says the arresting officer, Adel Abdel Aziz, “is crazy, some kind of a psycho. He seemed very violent.”283 Ehab, interrogated later in 2002 by Adel Abdel Aziz, says, “He insulted me a lot: ‘Son of a bitch, a sick person, khawal, you must get treatment, asshole, you are the garbage of this society.’ He said he would hurt me. He slapped my face. I broke down, I could not say a word in response. I signed. He put his hand over the paper so I couldn’t read it.”284

Alaa was arrested in 2002, with a friend, while waiting in Tahrir Square for Raoul. At the Mugamma`, the interrogating officer summoned other police

and he asked me in front of them to sign, and I said I won’t sign until I read it first, and then it has to match what happened, so he laughed hysterically, and he told them while laughing, “See, he doesn't want to sign. Can you make him sign, boys?” I thought that was only happening in movies, but I saw it for real. They started beating me up, and I could hear my friend [being beaten] as well, three guys beating me up, for almost one hour, and of course at the end I had to sign.285

Zaki Saad Zaki, held for two weeks in the Agouza police station after his arrest in January 2002, told local human rights activists that officers beat him daily; at one meeting with his lawyer, he still had blood crusting his face.286

Most prisoners leave the interrogation convinced they will be set free. Amgad told us that, in the Mugamma`, “They said then I must go to Qasr al-Nil police station to get my IDs—they had taken them from me.”

“Then you can go home.” So I signed, I didn’t even look. … The funny thing is the guards looked at each other and they were laughing at me. I was a fool, such a fool, to believe anything they told me. And so I went to Qasr al-Nil, holding my bag and feeling confident that I was just taking my ID to go home. I was surprised when one of the guards started shouting, as we entered the police station, “Fujur! Fujur!” One of the officers there asked me: “What are you coming for?” I told my name and said the men at the Mugamma` said I would take my ID from here.

Then the officers in the station handed my report among themselves and they knew what was inside it—that I would stay. They didn’t tell me, they just started to humiliate me with words. “Khawal” and such things. And they took me to the head of the station. He looked me up and down and said, “Do you pray?” I really didn’t know what to say.

Amgad begins to cry.

The thing is … I know I have more values and more honesty than him. And I know my relationship with God is more than he knows. But to him I am just an accused person—worse than an accused person, an animal—because I am gay. He asked me as if I were full of evil. … It was so much worse for me than you can ever imagine.287

D. “The Country of Hate”

Amir says, “As soon as I got into the station the guard gave the officer this big envelope. The officer said, ‘Another khawal!’ I knew I wasn’t leaving.”288

“They took me downstairs to the most horrible place I have ever seen in my life,” Amgad says. “The lowest guard could say anything to me and I could not respond. Again and again it was ‘khawal,’ ‘khawal.’ There is no one to speak or think gently or kindly in a place like that. It is the country of hate.”289

Nader, arrested in 2001, remembers that while he was held at the Giza Security Directorate, “The officers liked to make us stand in the middle of the room and show us to other guys and tell them about our cases, that we were khawalat. They did this almost every day. One the guards tried to show me his cock to suck.”290

Many detainees tell how, in dark cells, they found other prisoners seized in the same way: a sign of the frequency of Internet arrests—and of how many cases remain unknown to human rights activists. Tarek, arrested in the spring of 2002, says,

I met another guy about three days after I arrived. He was from Mansoura. … It was the same scheme: he came to Cairo to meet Raoul, and they arrested him. He told me he only had sex with foreign persons, not Egyptians, because he thought it was safer. Raoul had said he was foreign. He had succeeded on appeal, and he was in Abdin station waiting to be released. His story gave me some hope.

Then after forty-five days in Abdin, I met two other guys I knew. Later they were found innocent, the first instance also. I think they have both left the country. They had set up a meeting together with Raoul, and they were arrested at the same place I was, in Tahrir Square.291

Nader says, “I was the fourth case like mine in the station—there were three others with cases like mine, arrested at least two weeks before.”292 And Amgad recalls, “I met another man in the Qasr al-Nil lockup. He told me he was in jail for forty-five days waiting for the forensic medical report. He’d been told he’d have to pay 10,000LE in bribes [about US$ 2,250] to get out of jail before the report came.”293

Lawyers flocked downtown police stations, looking for Internet arrestees. In Abdin, according to Tarek, “In the morning, they took me to the niyaba. One of the guards took me out of the cell and told me, ‘Come, we will get you a good lawyer to defend you.’ I found out later that the guards work with a lawyer.”294 Amgad says,

There were police officers out there [in the police station] who get paid by the lawyers. They tell the lawyers, or the lawyers’ people who are hanging around the jail, that someone was arrested. They look especially for cases of debauchery because they know the families will be desperate. So the lawyers go and call the parents. Lawyers are like fleas in these places.295

Amgad reports that, during his weeks in Abdin station,

I overheard some officers saying, “The way they are catching khawalat through the Internet, they are doing it so that human rights can’t say this is not right. We don’t want human rights to bother us. So they make these cases in a way that they won’t get bothered by the rights people.”296

Despite this, the state media still publicizes Internet arrests and trials: Zaki Saad Zaki Abd al-Malak's 2002 conviction, and his full name, were proclaimed in Al-Ahram and Al-Akhbar.297 Other articles commend Vice Squad officers for their vigilance: a front-page spread in Al-Goumhoreya cited “a high security official” as proud that “we have been successful at arresting a few of the sexual perverts … but we will continue to pursue them vehemently, avidly, and unrelentingly.”298

Most men entrapped over the Internet are charged with both the “habitual practice of debauchery” and with some form of “inducing” or “advertising” for debauchery, the latter offering prosecutors a choice from a range of legal provisions.299 The evidence presented is rarely airtight. Often the only evidence of debauchery is whatever description of sexual acts “Raoul” elicited in Internet chat300; since the chat is presented as a printed-out text, interlocutors or interrogators could easily have altered it.301 Likewise, the only evidence that the Internet personals ad belongs to the man arrested is the photograph (if Raoul persuaded him to send one) and the defendant's signature at the police station; the photograph could have been gotten through other means, and the signatures were often obtained under torture. 302

All the same, most defendants in cases Human Rights Watch has examined were convicted in a court of first instance. Amir says of his trial,

At the trial the judge knew nothing about the Internet. I could tell he didn’t understand it at all. He wasn’t sure what a website was, or what “chat” was, and he was puzzled by the difference between chatting with someone over the phone and over the Internet. … Then the sentence came: one year in prison, and one year sleeping every night in the police station after that. That day, I had a nervous breakdown.303

And Amgad adds,

All of them—the judges, the lawyers, even the niyaba—knew nothing about the Internet. The deputy prosecutor even said, “I know nothing about the Internet and I don’t have time to learn about it. What is it? What do you do on it? Do people just talk around with men?” They knew nothing about how the things I was charged with actually worked, how these sites work, how you enter them or use them, or even how you log onto the internet or send an e-mail. They knew nothing except that the police officer had said I was gay and stood in Tahrir making feminine motions, and that the Internet was somehow part of this.304

Nader told Human Rights Watch that the other three men who shared his cell

had one judge handling all their cases, a different one from the one who presided over my trial. One of the three reached the judge and bribed him for a lenient sentence, and so since they had all been entrapped in the same way, he gave the same sentence to all of them for consistency—three months, which they had already served.

I couldn't bribe anybody. My verdict was two years. That was the worst day of my life. I made an appeal and it was reduced to six months, with six months police supervision. Except in the end I could spend nights at home —after my release they toured me around four different police stations to have my probation at one of them, and they all refused to take me because of the nature of my case. … But from 6 p.m. till 6 a.m. they could send somebody for me and if I wasn’t at home, I would go to prison.305

Given the weakness of evidence in these cases, comparatively sophisticated appeals judges often reverse guilty verdicts or at least reduce them to time served.306 This is not predictable, however. Wissam Toufiq Abyad's sentence of one year and three months was upheld on appeal.307 Zaki Saad Zaki's three-year sentence was also upheld; he is now serving it.308

For all the victims, traumas persist. Amgad says that, though freed on appeal,

I went home to find a wrecked home. What happened is more than I can bear. … My parents see me and they see this shadow behind me. And I wake up and walk with this shadow and I feel that I am the shadow. …

I consider myself strong to have gone through all this and still have my dignity—not to have gone crazy. But I fear for myself. I lost my confidence in people. I want to trust people so much. And now I don’t trust anyone, even myself. … I don’t understand why they do these things to men who harm no one. I don’t understand why they hunt us down.309

Mahmoud, who left the country after his conviction, writes that “Honestly there will be no words to describe what I have been through. They punished me only because of my sexual orientation and they condemned me as a criminal for my entire life, to be away from my beloved family and friends, to close down my business that I worked very hard to establish. In brief, they killed every beautiful hope and future I ever had!”310

Meanwhile, arrests continue. On March 19, 2003, Human Rights Watch attended the appeals hearing of a foreign national who had been entrapped on a business trip to Cairo; his sentence of one year was overturned. Eight days later, Al-Akhbar announced “the arrest of two youths” who “had presented themselves on the Internet for the practice of sexual perversion. They were sent to the prosecution in the context of [Interior] Minister Habib al 'Adly’s instructions to confront the criminal use of the Internet in the advertisement of debauchery.”311

Alaa, who also left Egypt after he was convicted, answered when Human Rights Watch asked if he had any final thoughts on his ordeal:

Why are they destroying our futures, not only us as gays, but our families too? You cannot imagine how this affected my mother and sister, you cannot imagine that I lost my job because of this, that I lost my dream because of this, you cannot imagine how hard it is to live away from your family and friends (and you didn't choose this)—you are just looking for your freedom, you cannot imagine how hard is it when your family looks at you, even if they knew about you from before, but something like this brought the shame to each and every one of them. …

Why do I have to live my life away from my family and my friends, and my city and my country for I don't know how long?

Why did my mom have to be humiliated as she is the mother of the homosexual? Why did I have to see my mother climbing the court stairs on her hands and knees?

Why do they enjoy destroying our lives? Why did I see the look of victory in their eyes while interrogating me?

I think I'm still human even if I'm gay, and I think I have rights, but I lost all my rights, and I need help, I need to find my rights back and get them. … All what I want now is for all the guys in prison to get their rights back.

I need my rights back

Thank you.312

256 Such programs allow computer users to send messages to other users who have the same messaging program if they are “online”—that is, connected to the Internet; the messages are received, and can be replied to, immediately. Such “conversations” are called “chat.” Either user can save the full record of his chat with another user (and can also alter it easily, as with any other computer document); court files in Internet cases are full of the records of undercover policemen’s chat with victims.

257 All citations are from documents in the case file of Amgad (not his real name), on file at Human Rights Watch; case number, and Amgad's real name, have been suppressed to safeguard his identity. Chat and e-mails are in English in the original.

258 Tarek Kamel, “Internet Commercialization in Egypt: Challenges and Opportunities,” at (retrieved May 10, 2003).

259 Michael Pastore, “Egypt Approaching Half Million Online,” Cyberatlas, July 7, 1999, at http://,5911_150651,00.html (retrieved May 7, 2003).

260 Issandr El-Amrani, “Finally free: After a long wait, free internet appears in Egypt,” Cairo Times, January 24-30, 2002; “'Free Internet' in Egypt by the end of the year,” press release by the Arab Advisors Group, at (retrieved June 1, 2003).

261 Human Rights Watch interview with Josh (not his real name), Cairo, Egypt, March 14, 2003.

262 Human Rights Watch interview with Gamal, Cairo, Egypt, March 3, 2003.

263 Human Rights Watch interview with Medhat (not his real name), Cairo, Egypt, March 8, 2003.

264 Human Rights Watch interview with Josh, Cairo, Egypt, March 14, 2003.

265 Confidential e-mail communications from one of the victims to Human Rights Watch. One of the victims served his sentence of three months’ imprisonment and three months’ police supervision; the other was convicted in absentia and remains in hiding.

266 “A very dangerous perspective on homosexual crimes in Egypt,” Al-Naba’, March 5, 2001.

267 See Mahmoud Tawfiq, “Sins of the Father,” Cairo Times, November 29-December 5, 2001.

268 Nadia Abou al-Magd, “Cyberspace-Scouring Cops Accused of Suppressing Online Expression,” Associated Press, May 16, 2002.

269 Ibid.

270 Human Rights Watch interview with a lawyer who requested not to be named, March 10, 2003.

271 E-mail communication (in English) to Human Rights Watch from Mahmoud (not his real name), April 13, 2003.

272 In the same chat, which appears as evidence in Ehab's court file, Raoul mentioned his love for Francois Poulenc's Dialogues des Carmelites, an opera by a gay French composer, unlikely to be known even by the most dedicated opera buff in Cairo. Court file from 2002, Qasr al-Nil Court of Misdemeanors, on file at Human Rights Watch; Human Rights Watch interview with Ehab (not his real name), February 6, 2003.

273 In court file no. 987/2003, Heliopolis Court of Misdemeanors, on file at Human Rights Watch; in English in the original.

274 In court file, Agouza Court of Misdemeanors, on file at Human Rights Watch; in English in the original.

275 His e-mail appeared in his court file, with an Arabic translation scrawled over the English—and with one mistranslation: his reference to his “first and only sexual experience,” which actually would have disproved the charge of “habitual practice” of debauchery, was replaced by the simple statement, “I will try to tell you what happened six years ago.”

276 Human Rights Watch interview with Amgad (not his real name), Cairo, Egypt, March 29, 2003.

277 Human Rights Watch interview with Amgad, Cairo, Egypt, March 29, 2003.

278 Human Rights Watch interview with Amir (not his real name), February 9, 2003.

279 Letter to friends (in English) from Wissam Toufiq Abyad, February 2003, copy on file at Human Rights Watch.

As with other arrests for homosexual conduct, police reports in Internet entrapment arrests follow a prepared template. The template is so formalized that police usually repeat it verbatim from arrest to arrest, filling in only the victim’s name, the place where he was seized, and the nickname he used in “advertising” himself. The investigations report in Zaki Saad Zaki's case is typical:

In the framework of the administration’s plan of work, which includes among its components the eradication of vice crimes in all their forms, especially regarding crimes whose perpetrators use modern scientific technologies in the practice of their activity that is criminalized and violates public morality through the Internet, thinking that they are far from the reach of pursuit of their criminal activity and the articles of law; knowing the administration’s role in pursuing those outlaws and following their criminalized activity and arresting them, for the protection of the society’s values and the safekeeping of its youth from deviance with the current of vice: our investigations revealed that some sexual perverts advertise themselves through some sexual websites on the Internet in a blunt invitation to practice debauchery with them—which harms the country’s reputation on the international level and is considered a violation of article 178 of the Criminal Code, which criminalizes inducing others to commit debauchery—or they post advertisements or messages about that, regardless of their phrasing, which constitutes a violation of article 14 of Law 10/1961, which punishes advertising fujur or di`ara or drawing attention to them. It was possible, through following the websites with the help of some of our trusted secret sources, to identify some passive sexual perverts who advertised themselves on the Internet using messages which include an invitation to practice debauchery. We received information from one of our secret sources that Zaki Saad Zaki …advertises himself over the internet under the nickname of Zeko on the website (passive) …He frequents the precinct of the Agouza police station on Arab League Street to hunt those youth and men who are the seekers of sexual pleasure to practice debauchery with them.

Investigations report by Muqaddam Nizar Ismail, court file no. 2730/2002, dated January 24, 2002, Agouza Court of Misdemeanors. The last sentence is added to explain Zaki’s arrest in Agouza, where his meeting with “Wael Samy” was arranged. Since he lived in Ismailia, a city in the Delta, the assertion that he “frequented” Arab League Street in Cairo was doubly absurd.

The phrasing is meant to conceal the fact that a police informer arranged the meeting and induced the victim to arrive. Instead, the arrest report suggests that the victim came to the scene to accost random passers-by, one of whom invariably gives testimony to the police, then vanishes “to protect his reputation.” (See the Appendix C for an example of such narratives.) This fictional figure traces his ancestry back to the third party allegedly approached by Nabil (see chapter III) in an old template used for street arrests. His presence is used to establish that the arrestee was caught in flagrante while attempting to “induce” someone to practice debauchery (see chapter II, section B).

280 Human Rights Watch interview with Amgad, Cairo, Egypt, March 29, 2003.

281 Human Rights Watch interview with Omar (not his real name), Cairo, Egypt, February 26, 2003.

282 Human Rights Watch interview with Amir, Cairo, Egypt, February 9, 2003.

283 Human Rights Watch interview with Abdullah (not his real name), Cairo, Egypt, March 2, 2003.

284 Human Rights Watch interview with Ehab, Cairo, Egypt, February 6, 2003.

285 E-mail communication from Alaa (not his real name), in English, March 4, 2003.

286 See Human Rights Watch press release, “Egypt: End Internet Entrapment, Homosexual Prosecutions,” February 21, 2003, at

287 Human Rights Watch interview with Amgad, Cairo, Egypt, March 29, 2003.

288 Human Rights Watch interview with Amir, February 9, 2003. Amir also says that the Qasr al-Nil police lockup rejected him on “moral” grounds: “The officer opened the envelope … He started reading [the papers], and making fun of me. He said, ‘You’re disgusting, khawal.’ And he told the guards, ‘We can’t have him here, not this kind of person again. Take him to Abdin Station.’ We went to Abdin, I went in—the same thing happened. They made fun of me. The officers said, ‘'You could be normal, but you don’t want to be.’ I stayed there.”

289 Ibid.

290 Human Rights Watch interview with Nader (not his real name), Cairo, Egypt, February 18, 2003.

291 Human Rights Watch interview with Tarek (not his real name), Cairo, Egypt, February 10, 2003.

292 Human Rights Watch interview with Nader, Cairo, Egypt, February 18, 2003.

293 Human Rights Watch interview with Amgad, Cairo, Egypt, March 29, 2003.

294 Human Rights Watch interview with Tarek, Cairo, Egypt, February 10, 2003.

295 Human Rights Watch interview with Amgad, Cairo, Egypt, March 29, 2003.

296 Ibid.

297 “Three Years in Jail and Probation for the Pervert Computer Engineer,” Al-Akhbar, February 8, 2002.

298 “Scandals on the Net! Perverts Use It To Spread Their Ideas,” Al-Goumhoreya, February 1, 2003.

299 See Appendix D for details.

300 However, as explained in chapter VI, the results of the forensic medical examination (even if inconclusive or negative) can still be used to support a debauchery conviction.

301 Several men told Human Rights Watch that this had happened: Amir, for instance, claimed that when his interrogating officer “showed me the chat sessions we did, he said, ‘Is that you?’ I said, ‘Yes, it’s me, but these are not my conversations.’ They had changed it to be all about sex.” Human Rights Watch interview with Amir, Cairo, Egypt, February 9, 2003. And Amgad says, “Raoul had changed my profile in He had taken the photos I sent him and put them just under the profile where it was Xeroxed. So the judge thought that I was advertising myself with my photograph across the Internet.” Human Rights Watch interview with Amgad, Cairo, Egypt, March 29, 2003.

302 Some defendants tell of the torture, and retract such confessions at the niyaba. Abdullah's court file shows him answering prosecutors:

Q: How do you explain your written statement with your handwriting on the papers printed out of your

A: I wrote these statements because I was terrified.

Despite his retraction, Abdullah still received a three-year sentence at the first instance. Prosecution report dated May 20, 2002, in court file, Qasr al-Nil Court of Misdemeanors, on file at Human Rights Watch.

303 Human Rights Watch interview with Amir, Cairo, Egypt, February 9, 2003. Even though police and prosecutors customarily claim that they obtained chat transcripts by surveillance of internet transmissions—not by participating in them through informers—judges have consistently been unsympathetic to claims that these conversations fall under privacy protections, particularly those of article 95 of the Criminal Procedural Code, which requires police to obtain a valid warrant before monitoring telephone conversations or the mails. Judges make use of the fact that the Internet is not specifically mentioned in Egyptian law. One judge held that article 95 “is limited to telephone conversations, because of their privacy or the inability of others to access them. … As for conversations on the Internet, the legislator did not state that there should be a warrant before their monitoring: in addition these conversations do not enjoy the same privacy as telephone conversations since anyone could access them and participate in them merely by accessing the website where the conversation is taking place.” Verdict by Judge Hassan al-Sayes, June 8, 2002, Qasr al-Nil Court of Misdemeanors, on file at Human Rights Watch. Another verdict showed similar incomprehension of the private character of Internet chat: “As for the argument of the defendant’s attorney that the monitoring of internet messages is a monitoring of telephone conversations and needs a permission from the district judge, and that not following these procedures proves that the pre-arrest investigations were faulty and obtained from an illegal source, this defense is baseless, because there are websites that are public, and open for the public on the internet, allowing any individual to access them and have a conversation with the owner of the website, which is the case in this instance.” Verdict by Judge Mohammed al-Sayed, January 27, 2003, Qasr al-Nil Court of Misdemeanors, on file at Human Rights Watch.

Judge Mohammed Abdel Karim, who presided over the initial Queen Boat trial, when deciding an Internet entrapment case held simply if cryptically that “What the officer in charge mentions was that entering the sites devoted to homosexuals is legal and that this was the way he received his information, according to his statements in the investigations. …” Verdict by Judge Mohammed Abdel Karim, April 13, 2002, Qasr al-Nil Court of Misdemeanors, on file at Human Rights Watch. Another judge simply found that the Internet, far from having zones of privacy—for instance, password-protected sites— was simply a “frequented place,” and thus the equivalent of a public road under article 269 of the Criminal Code (see Appendix C). Verdict by Judge Mohammed Hassan, December 21, 2002, Qasr al-Nil Court of Misdemeanors, on file at Human Rights Watch.

304 Human Rights Watch interview with Amgad, Cairo, Egypt, March 29. 2003. Abdullah's court file shows that police, in taking down his “confession,” confused an e-mail address with a website: “He added that he uses the internet in his activities through two other websites … the first one [address suppressed], and the other one [address suppressed]” Arrest report by Muqaddam Adel Abdel Aziz, May 19, 2002, in court file, Qasr al-Nil Court of Misdemeanors, on file at Human Rights Watch.

305 Human Rights Watch interview with Nader, Cairo, Egypt, February 18, 2003.

306 Such reversals are usually without comment or explanation by the Appeals Court. One judge noted, however, that “the defendant’s conversation with some other people on the Internet, even if it indicates bad behavior on the defendant’s part, and the low level of his morality, still does not determine that he committed the act of debauchery.” Verdict by Judge Mohammed Abdel Malik, June 26, 2002, Qasr al-Nil Court of Appeals, on file at Human Rights Watch.

307 Verdict by Judge Yasser al-Zayat, in appeal file no. 1965/2003, Heliopolis Court of Misdemeanors Appeals, February 17, 2003, on file at Human Rights Watch.

308 Verdict by Judge Ashraf Abd al-'Al, March 31, 2002, in court file, Agouza Court of Misdemeanors Appeals, on file at Human Rights Watch.

309 Human Rights Watch interview with Amgad, Cairo, Egypt, March 29, 2003.

310 E-mail communication from Mahmoud (in English), April 13, 2003.

311 “The arrest of two youths who had presented themselves on the Internet,” Al-Akhbar, March 28, 2003. Recent court cases also show increasing sophistication on the part of police, in anticipating judges’ possible receptivity to defense arguments that the evidence (chat text or e-mails) might have been illegally obtained. Thus in one typical case, the arrest report reads, “We escorted him to the administration headquarters … and he assisted us in obtaining the ad he posted on the sexual perverts’ website, as well as some conversations he had with some persons through those websites.” The niyaba interrogation record shows the defendant instead affirming that the entrapping agent (“Dennis”) had already printed out his advertisement: “I was taken to the Mugamma’ and I was surprised there to see that they had papers that included my photo.” Arrest report by Captain Mohammed Qutb, May 19, 2003 (emphasis added), and interrogation report by prosecutor Mahmoud al-Husseini, May 20, 2003, in court file, Qasr al-Nil Court of Misdemeanors, on file at Human Rights Watch. The defendant was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment but later acquitted on appeal.

312 E-mail communication from Alaa (in English), March 4, 2003.

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March 2004