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VI. A Flawed Mirror: Prejudice and the Workings of Justice

A. A Moulid in Tanta

The stigma attached to homosexual conduct in Egypt imputes a generalized guilt to those who practice it. Police and prosecutors assume men who have sex with men to be capable of, and culpable for, any other criminality.

Police may thus see an act of violence against a gay man not as an occasion for investigation but as a pretext for further injustice. Instead of a concentrated search for a criminal, they stage a roundup to persecute an entire community. In several cases Human Rights Watch has documented, authorities reacted to the murder of an allegedly gay man with indiscriminate mass arrests, picking up dozens or hundreds of people with no probable cause—on the basis not of a concrete suspicion but of their mere implication in homosexual conduct—holding them illegally, and torturing them. Finding the killer gives way to the goal of expanding police repression. Such cases show unrestrained police power coupled with the power of prejudice.

Several victims told Human Rights Watch the story of one such roundup. Khalil—in his forties and from a poor background in Gharbeya governorate—recounted how the events in Tanta in late 2002 “happened because this man, Adel, was murdered in his home.” When three of Adel’s gay friends broke the door down and found the body, the police arrested them. Khalil says:

The police tortured them, not because they thought they had done the crime but because they knew they were gay and could lead them to other gay people. They tortured them until they confessed to being gay. Then the officers demanded they inform on others.313

Khalil was quickly picked up: “They came to my work with a big hullabaloo, talking about khawalat.” At the police station, officers beat him to name names.

Like Khalil, Rafiq, in his mid-thirties, is a central figure in the community of self-identified gay men in Tanta. He says, “I still can’t believe Adel is dead. He was so strong, the strongest of all of us in body and mind and thinking. God rest his soul.”

Adel was killed on Sunday, September 29. Four days later they came to my house. They searched the house, the mattresses, they pushed my mother. I wasn’t home, it was around 11:30 p.m. I was in front of the police station, actually. I had heard that Adel’s murderer had been caught. I had friends who had already been arrested. I went to the police station believing the case was over and they would be released.

Instead Rafiq was seized by an officer and “dragged to the detectives’ unit,” where an officer beat him on the back of the neck. Blindfolded and handcuffed, Rafiq was questioned “from 1 a.m. to 6 p.m.” Officers, he says,

asked filthy questions: “Do you have an itch in your ass that you want to get fucked, does a worm cause it?” I said this is psychological, not physical. They said, “Filthy khawal, how can you talk such language with a secondary-school education?” I said, “I read, I learn. And gay people learn from and educate each other. We’re normal people, we talk about the world. We don’t have to be ignorant because we are gay.”

At 6 a.m. police took Rafiq to the city of Mahallah al-Kobra to pick up “two of my friends: we seized them from their homes.”314 One of them, Beshoy, told us,

They didn't find me at home when they came for me— I was spending the night at my sister's home. … So they said, “We'll take you until we get him.” They took her to the police station. She must have told them where I was because they came to my sister's house and took me from there, and released my wife. They told her that I was being arrested because I was a khawal. It was a terrible shock.315

Rafiq says police arrested eighty-six men in those days. According to Khalil, “For the first six days, we were tortured. They would get you from the cells when you were just awake. And they would beat you again, and use the shocks.”316 Rafiq says one of the men who found Adel’s body was brutally tortured:

They tied his hands and feet, and put him on a metal thing with two legs—a kind of metal sawhorse—and tied him so that he was hanging under it. He was blindfolded and naked. They attached wires to him and electroshocked him all night. They electroshocked his tongue. The next day they brought us in to him. He was lying on the floor in the office of the chief of detectives, where the torture happened. His tongue was swollen and hanging out of his mouth. I recognized his fingers and toes as they brought me in to him—there wasn’t much else I could recognize. I could barely understand him when he tried to talk. … An officer came in. He said, “Write down the names of all the khawalat you saw in Adel’s apartment in the last ten years.” He had shown him to us as a warning.317

Another man was “hung up for four days without food or drink, by cuffs in the window.”318 “They beat one man, hung him up, and shocked him on his ears and feet and tongue,” Khalil remembers. “They’d say, ‘So you won’t talk, fine,’ and they’d buzz his tongue. One time they made all of us they’d arrested stand in the room where he was hanging with his hands above his head, while they used the electricity on him.”319

And many others were tortured, according to Beshoy: “They would take them from the cells at night, around 2 a.m. Then they would bring them back at 6 or 7 in the morning, and throw them on the floor, blindfolded. They could barely move or speak. When they revived a little they would tell us about the electroshock.”320

Khalil says,

There was this top, Fahd [not his real name], whom I love very much. When they asked me about him I said I didn’t know him. They beat me on the face and kicked me, and used the whip. … They said, “Go get him.” And I told them, believe me, if I knew how to get him, I’d have got him.321

Human Rights Watch spoke to Fahd. He said, “They rounded up so very many, but they didn’t find me. They got one guy from our street—I didn’t even know he was gay. The police came by night; they told the neighbors they were getting khawalat.”322

After a week Rafiq “saw they no longer wanted to catch the murderer, but to bring in as many gay people as possible. … That day I fainted, when I saw blood on the floor.”

We were all illegally held. They forced us to sign an investigation report so if anyone inspected the police station they could say you were being investigated. … It had no date. They could put in a date when they wanted, because they had no right to hold us more than forty-eight hours.323

Tanta holds the mosque and tomb of Sayyed al-Badawi, one of Egypt’s great religious shrines: his moulid or festival each October draws enormous crowds. As it neared, officers decided to use the detained men to cast a wider net. Freed during the day, they were forced to return to the station at night, to trawl the streets with police. Rafiq says, “We were looking for gay men, people we knew.”324 According to Khalil,

We would go to the streets with detectives, and if we knew someone was a top or a bottom we’d just go up to the person, or wait for them to approach us. And they’d grab him, whether top or bottom. And most of the time they’d take him to the station.325

Medhat, a gay man from Cairo, told us about his eventful trip to Tanta.

I went for the moulid in October. That night it was very, very crowded. A young guy stood in front of me. Suddenly I found him grabbing my zipper and trying to open it. I don’t like that kind of thing at all. …

Then suddenly four other guys were coming fast, through the crowd. One grabbed my belt. These, who were plainclothes cops I guess, took over. They pulled me to the side, in the open, next to the mosque. They asked for my ID. One demanded, “What are you doing at the moulid?”

I said I was hearing Yasin al-Tohamy [a Quranic singer]. He said: “Are you top or bottom?” I played dumb. He showed my ID to another officer, who shook his head. The first one said, “Goodbye. Go home.”

That was all. But when I was taken I heard screaming and crying in the crowd. And when they released me—I was in a dark place at the edge of the mosque—some people came up to me in the darkness. They said, “What happened? Why did they let you go?” These were gay people. I understood from them there were informers the police had gotten because of this murder in Tanta. … The men were very, very scared.326

Fahd, Khalil’s friend, told Human Rights Watch that

I met Khalil in the moulid, in the crowds. He whispered, “You don’t know me.” When he got out of jail finally, he wanted me to come to his house: he said, “You must. I have to show you something.”

He took his shirt off. There were whip marks all over his back. He said, “All this was for you. They wanted me to say you were a khawal. And I didn’t give you up to them.” I was shaking with terror when I saw.327

Over two weeks after the first arrests, the scouring of the moulid stopped: police arrested a suspect. But, Khalil says, many of the tortured men fled the city.

B. Fear, Loathing, and the Law: The Effect of Stigma

The roundup during the moulid in Tanta shows how, in police practice, prejudice overcomes the lack of evidence, and annuls any pretence of due process. The contempt associated with “debauchery” in Egypt can render the rule of law irrelevant. According to attorney Maher Naim, who defended the accused in the Damanhour trial (which began with a similar roundup), in debauchery cases

police and prosecutors … don’t search for any evidence to acquit defendants: they don’t care about them, because from their point of view they are outside the bounds of humanity and human behavior. In sum, this crime is loathed in Egypt; the person who commits it is described as the filthiest and lowest thing possible, and until he is proved to be innocent, by some miracle, he is always despised like a leper, avoided by everyone.328

This chapter examines how stigma impedes the law's promises of equality and universality in Egypt. It engenders an atmosphere in which—where “deviant” acts or identity are alleged—fairness succumbs and legal protections vanish. The mass injustices in Tanta are only one, extreme result.

i. Surveillance, Arrests, and Harassment

Well-publicized mass arrests of “khawalat” have become staple items in Egypt’s press. Less high-profile arrests and harassment, however, remain regular.

The priority police place on close surveillance of men who have sex with men is shown in the network of informers they nourish. Informers are used to make arrests, and to maintain Vice Squad files. Walid told Human Rights Watch he was one of hundreds of men detained in the al-Zawiya al-Hamra district of Cairo in 1998, in a mass roundup after a gay man was murdered there. He says police “showed us pictures of khawalat, classified active and passive and ‘versatile.’ So many pictures! A huge book, from all over Cairo.” Throughout the roundup, informers “brought in people who were known to be gay, so they could register them and their photos and let them go—to fill the Vice Squad files.”329

One man who has informed on others described to Human Rights Watch the pressure to do so. In January 2003, Al-Arabi claimed that a US diplomat had been robbed at the Marriott Hotel in Cairo by a man he had picked up.330 Late in that month, Ibrahim, a gay man in his twenties, was named to police by an informer as frequenting the Marriott, and summoned to the Tourist Police office in the Manial district.331 He says,

There were ten people or so there waiting outside. Some others were inside. I could hear their screams. They were being beaten on the soles of their feet. The ones who had been tortured came out. I saw some of them leaving who couldn’t walk, who just fell on the floor. Our group went in, the ones who had just been summoned. The officer said, “You will not be tortured.” But he insisted we bring in other people.

Ibrahim arranged an ambush: “I called a friend who was gay, and arranged to meet at a café. The police were waiting, and they arrested him.” 332

Informers and police presence in suspected cruising areas steadily lead to arrests. On June 14, 2002, for instance, ten men were arrested while coming out of the Odeon Hotel in Cairo. “I was with two friends,” one told us. “A policeman at the door stopped us, took our IDs, and put us in a transport vehicle. When they had enough prisoners, they took us to the Qasr al-Nil police station. They said we were khawalat.”

The men were beaten and kicked to force them to sign confessions; after two days, taken before prosecutors, they were released on bail. “I fled the country,” the victim said. “The police had contacted my workplace and I was fired. The rest of them must have been convicted. I know my two friends are now in prison.”333

Ramzi, nineteen years old, recounted how in November 2002, he was arrested in Ramsis Square. “I found a guy telling me, ‘Just get in, girl. It’s obvious what you are.’ And he led me over to a police vehicle.”

They picked up about five more of us. Mustafa “Laila Elwi”—he’s the one who informed on us. I learned who he was and what his nickname is later. I found out later she’s known all over Cairo as a big informer. I know she’s an informer because she got in the police car with us. But at the police station, she got out and went home.

Ramzi was taken to the al-Azbekiya police station, where

All the officers started beating us. They slapped us on our faces and hit us on the nape of the neck. …They kept saying, “We’re going to involve you in really serious cases, you are the people who are spoiling the country, we have to catch you and the organizations behind you.”

With a hidden cellphone, he called a lawyer, who bribed Ramzi’s way free. Ramzi says, “I don’t know what happened to the others. … They were all pretty young, but older than me—in their twenties, thirties. And they were terrified too. … The policemen were looking for younger men—I don’t know why. But one of the policemen told me, ‘We’ll teach you young people a lesson, we’ll show all the young people in this country the right path.’”334

ii. Without Protection of the Law

Not only are men suspected of homosexual conduct in Egypt subject to arrest and abuse by police: they routinely find themselves defenseless against abuse by others.

Medhat stressed to Human Rights Watch how perilous gay life in Cairo has become. Heterosexuals regularly rob and blackmail men who have sex with men: “They know that you can't do anything about it: police would arrest you instead.”335

Anwar, in his thirties, was a victim of one such incident. In 2002, he met a man who pretended to be gay, in the cruising areas around Ramsis Station in Cairo. Instead, however, the man and a group of his friends robbed Anwar at knifepoint. Later, the man continued to harass Anwar for money. “He said he knew I was homosexual and he would tell my workplace. … What could I say in a society that is against gays?”

Finally, meeting the man in Ramsis Square one night, Anwar physically took him to the al-Azbekiyya police station to report him as a thief. “The man denied everything. He said that I was a khawal, and that I had asked him to fuck me, and he refused.” An officer decided to determine whether Anwar was gay.

He made me walk back and forth, and sit down: and open my shirt, and he looked at my chest hair. I was very embarrassed when he asked me to pull down my pants. He looked at my underwear. … Then he grabbed me and took me down to a holding cell and had the guard open it, and he threw me in. He told the prisoners in the cell, “Here’s a khawal, maybe. Find out if he’s a khawal.” And he locked the door.

Several prisoners advanced, one with a switchblade: “Let’s have a look, khawal, let’s see what you can do.” Resisting rape would be the proof of Anwar’s story.

I wrestled the knife from him and put it against my stomach and said, “Anyone comes near me for that, I’ll kill myself.” … The guy then hit me for having taken his knife. But then he patted me on my shoulder and gave me a cigarette. I sat down, and it wasn’t until ten minutes later that I started to calm down. … The officer came back. He asked the prisoners, “Did anything happen?” They said, “No, he’s OK, he would have killed himself if we had had him.” So I understood the “test.”

However, a traumatized Anwar dropped the charges.336

Tamer was twenty-two and living in Alexandria in 2001, when two heterosexual male acquaintances broke into his apartment: “They stole about 7000LE [about US$ 1500 at the time], some watches, my toiletries and perfumes, all my CDs. I called the parents of one of them to ask that they return all my stuff. The father said he knew I was a khawal and he was proud his son did all that to such an immoral, disgusting person.”

Tamer went to the police. Once arrested, the men declared Tamer was homosexual. “The policemen began to treat me like shit,” Tamer remembers, “to say things like: ‘Aren’t there any girls, do you have to go out and act the bitch yourself? Is your asshole is taking over your brain?’ The officer hit me and slapped me in the face. He left a big bruise on my face. They went on abusing me for forty minutes or so.”

The investigating officer ordered Tamer to drop the charges. “Again he began cursing. He said, ‘It’s legal to steal things from people like you.’ I said: ‘If I am gay, I don’t have the right to ask for help when things are stolen?’ He said: ‘Absolutely not.’”

Tamer went home, but “It wasn’t over.” The officer demanded the next day that he return with his belongings. “He said they had arrested three gay guys for debauchery, and if I didn’t come, they would put my name and address in the case.” The officer forced Tamer to give him expensive articles, “as a ‘present’ from me, to keep silent.”

Tamer says, “Almost a month later I accepted a low-paying job in a distant area, to get away from Cairo and Alex. I am paid so little. …But it is better to be there than exposed to these dangers. I’m very alone.”337

Ahmed, a businessman in his fifties, told Human Rights Watch a story of attempted murder in which the victim became a defendant. In 2000, a man with whom he had had a relationship raped him, then robbed him with an accomplice, stabbed him, and left him for dead.

Although seriously injured, Ahmed hesitated to report the crime because of “the scandal for my family. My father and mother didn’t know I am gay; they couldn’t have stood the shock.” However, a police officer visited him late one night:

He told me, I know that you are gay and you have to tell us everything. He said they had the names of many gay men; he showed me he was going to make an investigation, asking thirty or forty persons. He would check with all my friends. He told me I wouldn’t be accused. But he said, “Tell us, because we have to get these people”—the two guys.338

Ahmed ultimately told the police about the assault and robbery—though not the rape. However, when referred to the Forensic Medical Authority to check his wounds, he found prosecutors had also ordered that an anal examination be performed.339

Over the next two years, a man claiming to be from the police tried to blackmail Ahmed. The man called repeatedly, demanding money to stop a case against him; Ahmed gave him 5000LE (over US$1000). Finally, “More than two years after all this happened, I received a note from the court for a trial.”

It was the very first I knew about it. It said that I had a court date on the very next day after I received it! It wasn’t mailed—it was handed to my mother. It listed the charges, all about homosexuality. My mother was devastated. … I did not attend the first trial—after all, I had only found out one day before the hearing. … In absentia, I was sentenced to one year in prison.340 The blackmailer who had come before had the nerve to visit my home a few days later. He said he needed money. I refused to give him any.

An appeals hearing in early 2003 upheld the sentence. Having suffered rape and attempted murder, and facing prison, Ahmed is in hiding. He told Human Rights Watch in February 2003, “It would be easier for me to kill myself than to go to jail for this. … What do they want me to do? To steal, become a beggar, work in prostitution or crime? Why do they want to destroy my life?”341

iii. Failure of Due Process

Maher ‘Abd al-Wahid, the Prosecutor General of Egypt, told Human Rights Watch that “Prosecutions for debauchery are not affected by moral revulsion.” At the same time, he said, “ We are dedicated to protecting society against perversion, from a religious, social, and cultural point of view. This kind of conduct is simply not accepted.”342

In fact, Human Rights Watch's research suggests that the criminal justice system in Egypt rarely aspires to objectivity in cases of debauchery. Invoking the “cultural and moral situation” serves as a pretext for arrests, prosecutions, and decisions based on stereotype and stigma rather than evidence.

At the first level, that of the police, prejudice clearly drives the crackdown. Helmi al-Rawi, a human rights attorney, says that officers “are generally ignorant of what the law says in the first place.” In debauchery cases, al-Rawi says, “they imagine that just practicing it is a crime—it’s beyond their imagination that the law stipulates certain conditions. The police don’t have much eye for detail.”343

For details of the law: arguably not. For details of clothing, intonation, look, or stride, it is a different matter. Police single out suspects on the basis of a battery of stereotypes: minute signs of “perversion” inscribed in ways of dressing, walking, talking, which together have engendered a despised and penalized identity —of “khawal.” Thus the law helps create something like a “sexual identity” in the course of criminalizing sexual acts.

Law 10/1961 defines a pattern of accumulated actions as constituting a violation. The deeds adding up to “habitual debauchery,” however, are rarely themselves visible to the police. Moreover, consensual sexual acts leave no victim to point out the suspect. In compensation, police use informers to reveal offenders and expose private conduct; beyond that, though, they routinely infer acts from appearances. Gesture and posture become clues from which proclivity and desire can be inferred. Ziyad, a Queen Boat defendant, remembers how, in Abdin police station,

One guy had a tattoo. The moment the officer saw it he went crazy, shouting: “You’re trying to make me believe you guys aren’t khawalat?” A tattoo, colored underwear, a certain hairstyle or clothes: these could make a person gay. And get him beaten to within an inch of his life.344

The peculiar dynamic of so-called “sodomy laws” and their assault on privacy is that the difficulty of proof tends to dissolve the specificity of their provisions. Instead of searching out the crime itself, police look for the exterior traces of an interior tendency. In the end, officers treat not deeds but demeanors as culpable, working—as Human Rights Watch has elsewhere written—based on an “atmosphere of stigma, in which certain outward marks signal the presence of a certain kind of person, and certain identities and groups become automatic targets of the law.”345 The correspondence between particular crime and particular punishment which is basic to the rule of law begins to break down. When people are penalized not for what they do but for what they seem to be, legality itself is at risk. In the police treatment of “debauchery” in Egypt, such degradation is well underway.

At the level of prosecutors, al-Rawi says, a similar situation prevails. “There is a great ignorance of the law as well … but it is particularly acute when it comes to sex crimes—they’re so appalled by the idea that they don’t ask the most basic questions of the police, and don’t investigate the basic requirements of the law.”346

One defendant in the Queen Boat case remembers State Security prosecutors enraged that a debauchery file defiled their desks.When I first entered, the prosecutor said to his colleague, ‘Let’s finish with these sons of bitches, it’s the first time we’ve had to work on such a dirty case.’”347

Prejudice also occurs elsewhere in the legal profession. Some lawyers deny that stigma deters attorneys from taking up debauchery cases. Many defendants, however, are less sanguine. Sabir, in Tanta, complains of his lawyer's disdain: “He doesn't like to talk to me. … He barely gives me information. He behaves this way because of the nature of the case. He knows he's the only lawyer I can get. All the other lawyers in Tanta refused to take the case. We had a lot of trouble convincing this guy to handle it.”348

Ziyad says that when his mother found out about his arrest on the Queen Boat, “She tried to hire a lawyer in my home town, a friend of the family. He told her, your son is a khawal and has admitted it. I'll have nothing to do with him.”349

Finally, at the level of the judiciary, accounts of unfair treatment are common. A lawyer told Human Rights Watch that, at the first hearing in Sabir's case in Tanta,

the judge arbitrarily increased the bail, saying “Do you think I believe they didn't do it? Of course they did. I'm doing this to teach these men to think twice before taking off their pants again.”350

Al-Rawi adds, “It’s not just that judges simply approve what the police and niyaba say, but that they rule on stereotypes.” Court records point to confusion between social norms and law. In his verdict in the Queen Boat retrial, Judge Hassan al-Sayes digressed from procedural questions to declare, “The issue of the case and the crimes it includes repeat what happened in the time of the Sodomites and the wrath that fell upon them. They created an unprecedented obscenity among human beings by having sexual intercourse with human and demon males, and ignoring the women God created.”351

Similarly, a prosecutor summing up the offenses of the boy involved in the Queen Boat case (see footnote 142, above), addressed the judge in sacral, not legal terms:

A number of those who submitted to vice, until they became its servants with no conscience, have hurried towards all that God has prohibited, ridding themselves of all morals. They strayed from the straight path that God has drawn for man and through which He organized his desires … Unfortunately, the suspect opened his eyes on such a horrid crime, and he is only seventeen years old.

After such ferocious rhetoric, the three-year sentence seemed almost anticlimactic.352

That many convictions arrived at despite irrelevant arguments and flimsy evidence are overturned on appeal suggests the greater sophistication of Egypt’s higher judiciary. However, at that level as well, prejudicial injustices also occur. One victim was Nabil, whose case was detailed in chapter II.

Convicted of the habitual practice of debauchery in absentia in 1997, Nabil received a one-year sentence. Article 528 (2) of the Criminal Procedural Code stipulates that a misdemeanor verdict is “dropped after the passage of five years.” In other words, an appeals court, if petitioned, should then quash an unserved sentence. To free himself from the paralyzing fear of re-arrest, Nabil made such an appeal. At a hearing on January 19, 2003, which Human Rights Watch attended, Judge Ayman Saleh disregarded the law, reduced the sentence to six months, and ordered that it be imposed. Since defendants in an appeals hearing are required to appear in the courtroom cage for their case to be heard,353 Nabil was immediately taken to prison.354 Helmi al-Rawi, his attorney in his appeal, says, “The judge simply took one look at him and decided, ‘This is a khawal, and he should be in jail.’ And he didn't give a damn what the law said.”355

Judge Mohammed Abdel Karim, who presided over the first Queen Boat trial, exemplifies many professionals’ attitudes. He told us that “society as well as the media found this case to involve a forbidden act.” “Law,” he added, “is the mirror of society”:

Does this act deserve the efforts of a human rights organization to defend it? … Going back to the historical roots of religion—it is obvious that all heavenly religions expelled and abhorred debauchery. A second point. … This act was found by science and medicine to be the cause of disease. A third point. God created men and women to have sexual relations with each other. … This act simply contradicts the nature of humanity. Any act which is against human nature cannot be allowed free scope. It should be resented, resisted, and punished. …

In my perspective, these people have come under the condemnation of all societies and religions. There is only one point where human rights can interfere: these people deserve to be considered sick. They need guidance, care, and moral and religious preaching. … That should be the purpose of human rights in addressing these people, to restore them to humanity.356

Such remarks from a noted judge suggest how difficult obtaining due process is for those to whom a despised identity is imputed.

Helmi al-Rawi finds such attitudes symptoms of the overall crisis of the judiciary in Egypt: the mounting failings of a system filled with ill-trained and ill-paid personnel, staffed with ex-police and ex-prosecutors, and increasingly acquiescent before social and state pressure.357 “The police force and the niyaba melt,” he says, “through ambition and promotion, into the judiciary branch. The separation of the judiciary from the executive collapses.”

And these debauchery cases are one place where you can see the consequences—where so few people in the judiciary have the training or the independence to stand up to what the police and the prosecutors, much less the public, want, and to say instead, “Look at what is in the law.”358

Yet looking at the law is not enough. Police, prosecutors, and judges ignore the technical requirements of the law; if they abided by those exigencies, fewer people would be charged or imprisoned. However, article 9(c) itself, along with related provisions, is vague and elastic even in the most rigorous interpretation; and it violates basic rights. An abrogation of privacy and vehicle for discrimination, it incites prejudice as well as allowing it free play. Restoring the rule of law means repealing, not respecting, repressive legislation. The prohibition of fujur should be eliminated from Egypt’s books.

[313] Human Rights Watch interview with Khalil (not his real name), Tanta, Egypt, March 21, 2003.

[314] Human Rights Watch interview with Rafiq (not his real name), Tanta, Egypt, April 11, 2003.

[315] Human Rights Watch interview with Beshoy (not his real name), Tanta, Egypt, April 27, 2003.

[316] Human Rights Watch interview with Khalil, Tanta, Egypt, March 21, 2003.

[317] Human Rights Watch interview with Rafiq, Tanta, Egypt, April 11, 2003.

[318] Ibid.

[319] Human Rights Watch interview with Khalil, Tanta, Egypt, March 21, 2003.

[320] Human Rights Watch interview with Beshoy, Tanta, Egypt, April 27, 2003.

[321] Human Rights Watch interview with Khalil, Tanta, Egypt, March 21, 2003.

[322] Human Rights Watch interview with Fahd (not his real name), Tanta, Egypt, March 8, 2003.

[323] Human Rights Watch interview with Rafiq, Tanta, Egypt, April 11, 2003. In fact, the law requires that detainees be taken before a niyaba within twenty-four hours: Article 36, Criminal Procedural Code.

[324] Ibid.

[325] Human Rights Watch interview with Khalil, Tanta, Egypt, March 21, 2003.

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

[327] Human Rights Watch interview with Fahd, Tanta, Egypt, March 8, 2003.

[328] Human Rights Watch interview with attorney Maher Naim, Alexandria, Egypt, February 28, 2003.

[329] Human Rights Watch interview with Walid (not his real name), April 23, 2003.

[330] “News of the Week,” Al-Arabi, January 26, 2003. The Marriott Hotel is still known to be a discreet cruising area. US Embassy officials in Cairo denied to Human Rights Watch that an employee of their embassy had been involved.

[331] Since the alleged crime happened in a hotel, the Tourist Police claimed jurisdiction.

[332] Human Rights Watch interviews with Ibrahim (not his real name), Cairo, Egypt, February 3, 2003, and February 18, 2003. Ibrahim and his friend were freed after a few days. Police surveillance of the Marriott continued. On January 30, 2003, two researchers for Human Rights Watch—one from the US, one Egyptian—held a business meeting in the Marriott Hotel garden. The Egyptian researcher left the table and was approached by a stranger, also Egyptian. As they began a conversation, in which the stranger asked whether the researcher was gay, a police bailiff intervened and told the researcher that he was under arrest. He managed to alert his colleague, who accompanied him to the Tourist Police office, where after twenty minutes of interrogation he was released. The interrogation and other circumstances of the researcher’s arrest are consistent with reports that police had informants monitoring the Marriott, and entrapping Egyptians—particularly those in the company of foreigners—whom they suspected to be gay and could implicate in the robbery.

[333] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Jamil (not his real name), September 12, 2003.

[334] Human Rights Watch interview with Ramzi (not his real name), Cairo, Egypt, March 4, 2003.

[335] Human Rights Watch interview with Medhat, Cairo, Egypt, March 8, 2003.

[336] Human Rights Watch interview with Anwar (not his real name), Cairo, Egypt, April 11, 2003

[337] Human Rights Watch interview with Tamer (not his real name), March 1, 2003

[338] Human Rights Watch interview with Ahmed (not his real name), Cairo, Egypt, February 18, 2003. Human Rights Watch has inspected Ahmed’s own case file; it shows police and prosecutors displayed a growing interest, throughout the investigation, in the possibility that Ahmed’s own sexual activities made him a criminal. In the record of an interrogation at the niyaba, Ahmed is shown as stating the two men “came to my apartment to practice vice with me, since I am a sexual pervert.” The case file is on file at Human Rights Watch; exact details on, or from, it have been suppressed to protect Ahmed's identity.

[339] The language of the niyaba’s instructions to the Forensic Medical Authority clearly shows their interest in signs of consensual sex: although Ahmed had not reported the rape to the niyaba, he was referred “to verify his injuries … and whether he was sexually used from behind in sodomy or not [emphasis added].” On file at Human Rights Watch.

340 More than two years after police arrested Ahmed’s two assailants on charges of robbery and assault, the disposition of their case is unclear. The file contains no indication of what sentence, if any, they received. Ahmed says, “I’ve been told the two men were sent to prison for two years. Two years for robbery and for attempted murder! The judge must think that because it is related to homosexuality, I deserved it or brought it on myself.” Ahmed’s own file shows that the other two defendants were also charged with the habitual practice of debauchery, but does not indicate (as it generally would) that the assailants were in detention.

[341] Human Rights Watch interview with Ahmed, Cairo, Egypt, February 18, 2003.

[342] Human Rights Watch interview with Counsellor Maher ‘Abd al-Wahid, Prosecutor General, Cairo, Egypt, February 26, 2003.

[343] Human Rights Watch interview with attorney Helmi al-Rawi, Cairo, Egypt, April 19, 2003.

[344] Human Rights Watch interview with Ziyad, Alexandria, Egypt, February 28, 2003.

[345] See More than a Name: State-Sponsored Homophobia and its Consequences in Southern Africa, Human Rights Watch and the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, 2003, p. 86.

[346] Human Rights Watch interview with attorney Helmi al-Rawi, Cairo, Egypt, April 19, 2003.

[347] Human Rights Watch interview with Faisal, Cairo, Egypt, February 21, 2003. Indeed, prosecutors in several stories recounted in this report showed a repugnance to the point of violence against men suspected of having sex with men. In Damanhour, for instance, a prosecutor forced the defendants to chant, “We’re khawalat, we’re whores, we like to get fucked”; in the Agouza case, a prosecutor slapped three of the accused for refusing to align themselves as either active or passive.

[348] Human Rights Watch interview with Sabir, Tanta, Egypt, March 8, 2003.

[349] Human Rights Watch interview with Ziyad, Alexandria, Egypt, February 28, 2003.

[350] Human Rights Watch interview with a lawyer who wished to remain anonymous, Tanta, Egypt, March 8, 2003.

[351] Verdict by Judge Hassan al-Sayes in case no. 5375/2001, Qasr al-Nil Court of Misdemeanors, March 15, 2003, on file at Human Rights Watch.

[352] Prosecutor Ashraf Hilal, in court file in case no. 2041/2001, September 18, 2003, Cairo Juvenile Court of Misdemeanors, on file at Human Rights Watch.

[353] Article 237, Criminal Procedural Code.

[354] Verdict by Judge Ayman Saleh in case no. 5205/1997, al-Azbekiya Court of Appeals, January 19, 2003, on file at Human Rights Watch.

[355] Human Rights Watch interview with attorney Helmi al-Rawi, Cairo, Egypt, April 19, 2003. At three successive hearings, the same judge rejected motions to suspend the sentence pending a Cassation Court review. Nabil was finally released in July 2003, and has since suffered severe depression: letter from Nabil to Scott Long, Human Rights Watch, January 9, 2004.

[356] Human Rights Watch interview with Judge Mohammed Abdel Karim, March 11, 2003.

[357] The condition of the courts occasioned controversy when, in early 2003, the Nasserist daily Al-Arabi published a memorandum sent by retired jurist Yehya al-Rifai to the heads of Egypt’s Lawyers' Syndicate and to the board of the Judges’ Club. Al-Rifai said the state of the judiciary was “deteriorating” amid government interference in judicial decisions and attempts “to bring the judiciary under the direct control of the Ministry of Justice.” Citing the Ministry's power over salaries and benefits, he accused the state of honing both threats and temptations to eviscerate the “customs, values, and traditions of the judiciary.” Judge Yehya al-Rifai, “I announce the death of justice in Egypt,” Al-Arabi, January 5, 2003.

[358] Human Rights Watch interview with attorney Helmi al-Rawi, Cairo, Egypt, April 19, 2003.

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March 2004