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Last Updated: Wednesday, 6 February 2008, 18:10 GMT
Egypt 'torturing HIV sufferers'
Men accused of homosexuality in Egypt, AP
Men accused of being homosexual are tortured by police, HRW alleges
HIV-positive Egyptian men are tortured and chained to hospital beds while awaiting unfair homosexuality trials, a human rights group has claimed.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) decried the "ignorance and injustice" of a case in which a group of arrested men were given HIV tests without their consent.

They were also subjected to anal tests to "prove" their homosexual conduct.

Two of the men tested HIV-positive and are now handcuffed to hospital beds for 23 hours a day, HRW said.

"These men have been subjected to anal examination without their consent which amounts to torture," Gasser Abdel-Razek, HRW's acting director of regional relations in the Middle East, told the BBC on Wednesday.

"Egypt should release the men unconditionally and put a system in place that does not deal with HIV-positive individuals as criminals but as patients who require medical care and attention."

Egypt's Interior Ministry had no immediate comment on the case.

'Ignorance and injustice'

Two of the men were arrested in October after a scuffle in central Cairo and when one said he was HIV-positive they were taken to the police branch which deals with issues of public morality.

Both men claim they were beaten for refusing to sign statements written by the police.

These cases show Egyptian police acting on the dangerous belief that HIV is... a crime to be punished
Scott Long, Human Rights Watch

Two more men were arrested when police found their photographs and contact numbers in the wallets of those detained.

All four men, who have not been identified, remain in custody pending a prosecutor's decision on possible charges.

Scott Long, director of the US-based group's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Rights Programme, said the arrests "embody both ignorance and injustice".

"These cases show Egyptian police acting on the dangerous belief that HIV is not a condition to be treated but a crime to be punished," he said.

'Habitual debauchery' convictions

Four further arrests were made in November when police raided the flat of one of those being held, which had been placed under surveillance.

Those four men were sentenced to one year in jail in January having been convicted of "habitual debauchery", which Human Rights Watch says is a euphemism used to penalise consensual homosexual acts.

Their lawyers claimed the prosecution had produced no evidence against the defendants, who pleaded not guilty.

While not explicitly referred to in Egypt's legal code, homosexuality can be punished under several different laws covering obscenity, prostitution and debauchery.

Egypt has come under repeated criticism by both human rights groups and the international community for its treatment of homosexual people.

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