The Azbakeya Court acquitted all 26 defendants in the “Ramsis bathhouse” case, after they faced charges of debauchery and organising “same-sex orgies”.
Tarek Al-Awadi, the lawyer of the defendants, told Daily News Egypt that the family of the accused are planning to file a lawsuit against journalist Mona Iraqi, to “falsely accusing the defendants of debauchery”.
“In case that private satellite station Al-Qahera Wal-Nas (Cairo and the People) will not publish an official statement apologising for the actions of its employees, we will continue to escalate,” he added. “The channel should take serious legal procedure against Iraqi, her team, and the programme director.”
On 7 December, a force from the Egyptian anti-vice police raided the bath house and referred the defendants to the Azbakeya police station, and then to the prosecution.
Four of the defendants, including the owner of the bathhouse, were charged with “running a place that organises paid sexual orgies”, while the other 21 are facing charges of debauchery.
The latter group also underwent intrusive anal examinations by the forensic department to determine whether they were “habitual” homosexuals.
The forensic department announced that three suspects were found to be “victims of sexual assault”, adding that the tests could not reveal whether the other 18 suspects participated in homosexual relations or not.
However, the head of the Azbakeya prosecution unit told Daily News Egypt, that the forensic department’s report might not guarantee the defendant’s acquittal, as they might have used “lubricants and gel creams to facilitate the sexual process”.
During the trial session of the case, the defence argued that the arrest procedures were illegal, and that the police forces collaborated with media personnel from private television channels to film the arrests.
The defence also argued that there were contradictions in the testimonies given by the officers responsible for staging the arrests.
The arrests, which a number of human rights organisations and LGBT activists described as a “severe violation of personal rights”, were aired and reported by investigative reporter Mona Iraqi on private satellite station Al-Qahera Wal-Nas (Cairo and the People).
Iraqi and her team went to film the inside of the bathhouse, and to ask wither one can invite other people to rent the whole place, hinting at the possibility of organising a same-sex gathering.
Iraqi and the programme’s cameramen were present during the arrests, and filmed the police raiding the bathhouse, arresting the defendants and taking them semi-naked to the police station, amid heavy security presence.
After the arrests took place, the programme’s official Facebook page posted promos and pictures showing Iraqi filming the defendants while being taken away. The programme was aired days following the World AIDS Day, claiming to spread awareness about AIDS and to report about “secret paid homosexual orgies”.
The episodes featured interviews with two members of the Egyptian AIDS Society, talking about the symptoms of AIDS, and possible ways of infection. However, following the arrest of the men, the AIDS society issued a statement that they had been given misleading information prior to filming, and denounced the contents of the show.
Iraqi also interviewed the police officer responsible for leading the anti-vice unit which raided the bathhouse, whereby they talked about the arrests and the procedures security forces took to monitor the bathhouse.
Iraqi’s actions were met by a major wave of harsh criticism by human rights activists, the Egyptian AIDS Society, social media users, and LGBT activists, who accused Iraqi of collaborating with the police forces to arrest and film the defendants.
After the wave of criticism, Iraqi posted videos of the alleged homosexuals. She asked “so-called gay rights defenders whether they are going to help those people or not”.
The controversial presenter also posted a note in English on her Facebook page saying: “I worked on such case for one reason, which was sex trafficking in a public place, a bathhouse for men in downtown Cairo, and my whole issue is not [about] homosexuality.”
“On the contrary, I managed to investigate and film this case to stress on the fact that we need help insuring a healthier life for such groups, since it’s an unacceptable issue for the Egyptian society,” she added.
However, for the duration of the programme, a news ticker read: “Sexual relations between males lead to AIDS infection.”
She explained that three of the suspects were proven to be sexually assaulted, which “affirms it was a crime of sex trafficking”. She went on to say that “actions taken in such case, either by me or by authorities, cannot be considered as a breach of human rights law, since they were taken to prevent a crime that even western countries prohibit by law”.
No specific law outlaws homosexuality in Egypt. However, in most cases the prosecution uses Article 9 of Law 10/1961 criminalising “debauchery”, to convict people accused of engaging in homosexuality.
The law is most frequently used to accuse defendants of involvement in prostitution.