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Egypt Sentences 16 Gay Men for ‘Habitual Debauchery’ Amidst Crackdown on LGBTQ Community

Note: Reports vary on how many gay men were sentencedon Sundayin Egypt, as precious little information is coming out about the country’s anti-LGBTQ crackdown. Some media outlets have reported 14, while others have said that 17 people received their respective verdicts. However, the human rights group Amnesty International is reporting 16, and INTO has chosen to update our earlier figure in deference to their authority. The number will continue to be updated as more information comes out.

Sixteen men have been convicted in an Egyptian court for “abnormal” sexual relations during a violent crackdown on the Muslim country’s LGBTQ population.

Defense lawyer Ishaq Wadie told the Agence Presse France that the detainees were released on Sunday after being sentenced to either three years in prison or a fine of 5,000 Egyptian pounds (which translates to $285 U.S. dollars). Eleven of those arrested by Egyptian authorities following a Sept. 22 concert will have the ability to appeal the ruling and will be free of their own recognizance until that time.

However, three gay men sentenced over the weekend remain behind bars due to bureaucratic delay.

Although homosexuality is legal in the North African nation, Wadie claimed that his clients were charged with “habitual debauchery.” Egypt criminalizes prostitution and other forms of sexual deviancy under an outdated 1962 law, one that has recently been used to target its LGBTQ community.

More than 70 people have been arrested in the past two months after fans of the band Mashrou’ Leila hoisted a Pride flag in support of the LGBTQ community at a Cairo show. Police used photos of the event posted on social media to identify those involved in the display, some of whom were heterosexual. Some detainees were subjected to forced anal examinations, as Amnesty International reports.

Following the crackdown, more than 60 legislators have signed onto an extreme bill that would make anti-gay violence the new normal. The bill would mandate up to five years in prison for those charged with homosexuality or viewed as promoting LGBTQ rights in any way.

That legislation is widely expected to pass.

Reports vary on how many LGBTQ people remain behind bars at the time of writing, but local advocates told INTO earlier this month that many of those rounded up after the Mashrou’ Leila concert have been released. A majority have had their sentences lessened upon appeal. The initial terms were extremely steep, with defendants receiving up to six years in prison. The sentences were subsequently reduced to three years at most.

Najia Bounaim, North Africa campaigns director for Amnesty International, has called the worsening situation a “huge setback for human rights” in Egypt, but the country’s president has yet to comment publicly on the ongoing arrests.

International leaders have also failed to take a stand on the LGBTQ crackdown. Neither U.S. President Donald Trump, who has yet to speak out against anti-gay violence in Chechnya or Azerbaijan, or Secretary of State Rex Tillerson have commented on the crisis. French President Emmanuel Macron claimed that he would not “lecture” Egypt on human rights.

Photography: Fayed El-Geziry/NurPhoto via Getty Images