Egyptian authorities arrest men for alleged 'debauchery' in bath house raid

Up to 33 men were dragged naked from a hammam in downton Cairo

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Up to 33 men suspected of homosexuality have been arrested and dragged naked from a bath house in downtown Cairo, following a raid by Egyptian authorities.

There were conflicting reports about the number of arrests, with AFP citing 33, but Reuters and the Associated Press putting the number at 26 and 25 respectively.

If convicted the men could be sent to jail.

Homosexuality is a social taboo in Egypt, a conservative, Muslim majority country with a sizable Christian minority – and the raid comes as part of an on-going crackdown on gay men.

While Egyptian law does not explicitly prohibit consensual same-sex relations, it prosecutes and imprisons gay men on charges such as “debauchery” and “shameless public acts”.

The crackdown on homosexuals, and also on atheists, goes hand in hand with a wider campaign against all forms of dissent, both by liberal and Islamist political groups.

An official told the Associated Press that the bath house, or hammam, was in the city's Ramses neighbourhood.

Speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to media, he said the bath house owner, an unidentified 60-year-old man, was suspected of renting the place out specifically to homosexuals.

Last month an Egyptian court convicted eight men on charges of “inciting debauchery” following their appearance in an alleged same-sex wedding party on a Nile boat, sentencing each to three years imprisonment.

And in 2001, Egypt made headlines around the world when 52 men were arrested in a police raid on a Nile boat restaurant and accused of taking part in a gay sex party. After a highly publicized trial in an emergency state security court, 23 of the men were convicted and sentenced to prison terms of one to five years for immoral behaviour and contempt of religion.