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Last Updated:  Saturday, 15 March, 2003, 14:36 GMT
Egypt jails men in gay sex trial
Two defendants at the retrial last year hide their faces as they enter court
Egypt has long faced criticism for its treatment of gays
An Egyptian court has jailed 21 men for three years each for practising homosexuality in a retrial after their original sentences were quashed on presidential orders.

The men were arrested in May 2001 at a Cairo nightclub known for being popular with gays, and found guilty in a special security court in November the same year.

However President Hosni Mubarak ordered a retrial after the original sentences handed down to the men led to heavy criticism by global human rights activists.

The new sentences are longer than those originally imposed, however the men are currently free on bail and, unlike at their previous trial, they can appeal against their sentences.

A further 29 men were acquitted at the retrial.

A representative of the US-based Human Rights Watch, Scott Long, told Reuters news agency the sentences were "appalling" and "based on flimsy evidence".

Taboo subject

Mr Mubarak had ordered a retrial to be held in an ordinary criminal court, saying the charges against the men were not serious enough to warrant a state security trial.

Human rights organisations had also put pressure on Egypt to review the original sentences, heavily criticising the government and arguing that the men were on trial for their sexual orientation and for exercising freedom of speech.

Homosexuality is taboo but not illegal in Egypt, and prosecutions are brought under morality laws.

Western gay rights campaigners and human rights groups have long protested against the treatment of gays in Egypt.

However the Egyptian Government has rejected the criticism, saying its courts are fair and Western societies should not attempt to impose their values on Egypt.




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The BBC's Russell Trott
"The case began two years ago"



SEE ALSO:
Gay retrial adjourned in Egypt
27 Jul 02 |  Middle East
Egypt cracks down on homosexuals
06 Mar 02 |  Crossing Continents
Egypt jails men in gay sex trial
14 Nov 01 |  Middle East
Anger over Egypt gay trial
15 Aug 01 |  Middle East
'Extremist' gay trial opens in Egypt
18 Jul 01 |  Middle East
Court cuts sentences on Egyptian gays
12 Apr 01 |  Middle East


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