Egyptian security forces arrested 33 men on charges of "debauchery" in a raid on a Cairo bathhouse that was filmed by a pro-government TV channel.
The raid took place on Sunday night in the city's Ramses district and the bathhouse owner was among those arrested, according to AFP, who quoted a local prosecution office head as saying the man was accused of "turning the facility into a site of immoral and indecent conduct and group homosexuality." All of the detained will face jail terms if convicted.
There is no specific legislation banning homosexuality in Egypt, but the country's LGBT population is harassed and arrested on a variety of other pretexts, including "debauchery" and "prostitution."
The raid was filmed by a crew from al-Mostakhbai, (The Hidden), an undercover TV show broadcast by self-styled pro-government Al Kahera Wal Nas, and will be aired this week as part of a "special episode about homosexuality" that promises to "reveal the unseen".
Al-Mostakhbai presenter Mona Iraqi posted pictures to her official Facebook page showing plainclothes members of the Egyptian security forces herding huddled together naked men out of the building. "The cameras of al-Mostakhbai has a filmed investigation to prove incidents of group perversion and record the confessions of the owners of this den," she said in the text accompanying the shots. The account appeared to have been suspended on Tuesday.
Images of the raid were posted by presenter Mona Iraqi on her official Facebook page; the account later appeared to have been suspended.
Iraqi subsequently attempted to defend the program by saying that it had been intended to raise awareness of HIV in Egypt and originally scheduled to coincide with World AIDS Day, but delayed. She described the bathhouse as a "den for spreading AIDS in Egypt."
This was the largest such mass arrest since 2001, when 52 men were detained in a Cairo nightclub. However, such raids have increased since the military removed democratically elected Islamist president Mohammed Morsi from power in mid-2013. Officials have since portrayed the 2011 revolution that overthrew longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak as ushering in a period of moral decline. 14 men were arrested in a similar bathhouse raid in October 2013 for being caught "in the act of homosexuality."
Eight men were jailed in November for "inciting debauchery" after a video said to show a gay wedding on a Nile boat was widely circulated on social media. They were subsequently subjected to what Human Rights Watch (HRW) described as "forensic anal examinations", which have often been employed by Egyptian authorities in such cases. A spokesman for the Health Ministry's Forensic Medical Authority said on September 8 that the exam results had concluded that men were "not homosexuals," HRW said. They were jailed anyway.
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