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Egypt Steps Up Crackdown on Homosexuals, Arrests 27

  • Associated Press

FILE - A gay Egyptian lights his cigarette in Cairo, Egypt. Egypt’s gay community is going deeper underground in fear after police arrest dozens of men at a Cairo bathhouse in a raid that was then featured on a lurid TV tabloid program stirring up public panic over 'debauchery.'

Egypt has stepped up a crackdown on people suspected of homosexuality, arresting a total of 27 in a little more than a week, security officials said Tuesday.

They said the 27 include a man and a woman picked up by police on Monday and all have been charged with "debauchery."

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to brief the media.

On Monday, Amnesty International called for the "immediate" and "unconditional" release of all people arrested since a Sept 22 concert in Cairo in which an LGBT flag was raised, an incident that sparked the ongoing crackdown.

In a statement, Amnesty said at least five of those arrested were subjected to anal examinations to determine whether they were engaged in same-sex sexual relations, a practice it said amounted to torture and was scientifically unsound.

"The authorities must urgently halt this ruthless crackdown and release all those arrested immediately and unconditionally," said Najia Bounaim, Amnesty's North Africa campaigns director.

The group that played in the Sept. 22 concert - Lebanese indie rock band Mashrou' Leila whose lead singer is openly gay - condemned the crackdown in a statement posted on its Facebook page Tuesday. Calling it a witch hunt, it said all those detained must be released and international pressure put on Egyptian authorities to halt the crackdown.

Homosexuality is highly taboo in Egypt among Muslims and Christians alike, but it is not explicitly prohibited by law. In practice, authorities prosecute individuals under such charges as "immorality" and "debauchery.

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