Earlier this month, 26 men were arrested at a Cairo bath house. Scott Long attended the first day of their trial:
The lawyers still hadn’t seen the prosecutors’ or police reports, so we don’t know definitely what the charges are. It seems likely, though, that 21 men were customers at the bathhouse; they will be charged with the “habitual practice of debauchery” (article 9c of Law 10/1061), or homosexual conduct, facing up to three years in prison. The owner and staff probably make up the other five prisoners. They’re likely to be tried for some combination of:
- keeping a residence for purposes of debauchery (article 9a, three years),
- or facilitating the practice of debauchery (article 9b, three years),
- or profiting from the practice of debauchery (article 11, two years),
- or “working or residing in premises used for debauchery” (article 13: one year).
That could add up nine years in prison. Contrary to [Egyptian journalist] Mona Iraqi’s lies, there was no mention of “sex trafficking.”
Shortly after the arrests, Brian Whitaker compared this latest incident with “a similar crackdown by the Mubarak regime around 2001”:
The exact reasons for the 2001 crackdown are still debated, and probably several factors were involved. Writing about this at the time, Hossam Bahgat saw it as an attempt by the Mubarak regime to undercut Islamist opposition by portraying the state as the guardian of public virtue: “To counter this ascending [Islamist] power, the state resorts to sensational prosecutions, in which the regime steps in to protect Islam from evil apostates. The regime seems to have realised that suppression and persecution of Islamists will not uproot the Islamist threat unless it is combined with actions that bolster the state’s religious legitimacy.”
He also noted the regime’s practice of using sensational trials to divert public attention from the worsening state of the economy and similar issues.
Ursula Lindsey doubts President Sisi and his underlings are trying to “bolster their religious credentials”:
There are other explanations. First of all, the mercenary ones. What happened to the wallets and cell phones of the men arrested in the raid on the bathhouse? I would bet you they never saw them again. What does a cafe or bar in Downtown Cairo have to pay in bribes to operate freely, to take over the sidewalk, to have the noise complaints of neighbors ignored, let alone to keep a liquor license? Businesses that exist on the edge of social approval are easy pickings for extortion.
Furthermore, the way I see it, in the summer of 2013 a terrible mechanism was put into motion. In this mechanism, the media generates hysteria, and the security sector produces repression. This mechanism now continues to run, although its primary target — taking the Muslim Brotherhood out power, putting the military into it, and undermining the aspirations of January 25 2011 — has been accomplished. But journalists still have to report about something, and the country’s economic problems, human rights abuses, and the conduct of its war on terrorism are all out of bounds.