An Egyptian court has acquitted the 26 men arrested in the televised raid on a Cairo bathhouse early last month, the Associated Press reports:
The men in the bathhouse raid faced various charges, including debauchery and performing indecent public acts. Monday’s verdict came after only three hearings, during which families quarreled with journalists who tried to photograph their relatives in the dock.
The courtroom erupted into a frenzy after the word “acquittal” was heard from the judge and women ululated. Scott Long, an American researcher who had followed the case said he was both “shocked and delighted.”
“I hope this is a sign that these raids will come to an end,” Long told the Associated Press amid the cheering. “Finally there was a judge who listened to the evidence.”
Rights activists say 2014 was the worst year in a decade for Egypt’s gay community, with at least 150 men arrested or put on trial.
“They destroyed our lives. God rescued us,” said one of the defendants, who didn’t give his name.
Following the acquittal, defense lawyer Tarek el-Awady said he would file charges against the officer who led the raid, Lt. Col. Ahmed Hashad for fabricating testimony and would also bring charges against reporter Mona Iraqi. Iraqi has been accused by activist groups of breaking various laws in her filming of the bathhouse raid.
“We will not leave Mona Iraqi,” said a relative of one of the accused who gave his name as Mahmoud. “We will take her to court. We will not leave Ahmed Hashad. If I have to sell the furniture in my house to take a case to take her to jail, I will not let her rest until the end of her life.”
One of the pieces of evidence seized upon by defense lawyers was the anal exams performed by police medical experts after their arrest. Egyptian authorities maintain testing the tightness of the anal sphincter can establish whether or not a man is gay, though many international medical experts say the exams are unreliable and human rights groups have denounced them as a violation of basic human rights.
But instead of reporting many of them had been penetrated – as Hashad claims to have seen with his own eyes – the examiners reported only three had “wounds” in the anus. Defense attorney Mohamed Zaki told BuzzFeed News that in these cases the examiners reported scratches or tears, which could be evidence of trauma that actually occurred after the men were in police custody.
One of the three men also told lawyers he had been raped while in police custody, claiming police had presented him to other prisoners using an Egyptian expression that roughly corresponds to "here's a hot piece of ass". The man refused to allow his lawyers to use his claim to contest charges, however, due to the social taboos surrounding penetration.
“How can he stand in the court and say he has been penetrated?” said defense lawyer Mohamed Zaki. “Even if we can prove that he was raped inside the police station, this will never clear his reputation … once you have been penetrated, you are not considered a man.”