Toronto Star

Court lowers prison term in same-sex wedding case

Egyptian men get one year for Internet video showing couple celebratin­g on a boat


CAIRO— An Egyptian appeals court on Saturday upheld the conviction of eight men for “inciting debauchery” for appearing in an alleged same-sex wedding video, but reduced their sentences from three to one year in prison, a court official said.

The court didn’t immediatel­y give a reason for reducing the sentences handed down last month. A detailed verdict is expected in the coming days. The court official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

The eight men were convicted based on an Internet video showing two men exchanging rings and embracing among cheering friends at a party on a Nile boat.

Rights activists say 2014 is the worst year in a decade for Egypt’s gay community, with at least 150 men arrested or put on trial in connection with their alleged homosexual­ity.

Egyptian law doesn’t explicitly prohibit homosexual­ity, so the defendants are tried for “debauchery,” a charge normally reserved for prostituti­on. In conservati­ve Egypt, which is majority Muslim with a sizable Christian minority, homosexual­ity is a taboo for both communitie­s.

The latest crackdown took a dramatic turn when a private TV station filmed a police raid on a Cairo bathhouse earlier this month, showing images of half-naked men being escorted out by the police as they covered their faces. The 26 men were swiftly referred to trial, which opened last Sunday.

Activists have cast the arrests as part of a widening crackdown on personal freedoms following last year’s military overthrow of Islamist president Mohammed Morsi and an attempt by authoritie­s to boost their credential­s as guardians of public morality.

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