A misdemeanor court sentenced eight men to three years in prison after they were filmed in what appeared to be a gay marriage ceremony that took place on a boat on the Nile, the state-owned Al-Ahram reported on Saturday.
The convicted men will be also put under probation for another three years after serving their sentences. The defendants faced a number of vague charges, including “acts endangering public morals.”
The video in question was widely circulated on social media early September, showing two men in suits exchanging rings, while other men sang wedding songs and ululated in celebration. A cake with a picture of the two men also appeared, and several of the guests seemed to be exchanging hugs.
The video provoked heated responses, and one of the two men seen exchanging rings made a phone call to television host Tamer Amin, explaining that the party in the video was a birthday celebration and was misunderstood.
The man, whose identity was not revealed, explained that he had bought a ring for his close friend on his birthday and that their friends jokingly celebrated with wedding songs when he gave it to him. The 28-year-old, who told the TV host that he had a girlfriend, said that his life was turned upside down since the video was leaked.
“I had to speak up; I can’t sit by idly and watch my reputation being tarnished. I’m scared of walking in the streets now, I feel like screaming out and telling people I’m not like this,” he said.
He also added that he had shared the video, which he says was taken last October, on his Facebook page, and then removed it and was surprised to see it re-emerge almost a year later.
LGBT people in Egypt have faced harsh oppression by both society and the state under former President Hosni Mubarak’s regime, which has not been mitigated by the successive administrations that followed his ouster.
In one high-profile incident, commonly known as the “Queen Boat raid,” 52 men were accused of homosexual acts and were arrested on charges of debauchery in May 2001. 23 of them were sentenced to prison.
Last April, three men were sentenced to eight years in prison on charges of debauchery and homosexual prostitution, and a fourth was sentenced to three years. The men were arrested in an apartment where, according to the prosecution, they were dressed in women’s clothing.
Although homosexuality is not officially a criminal offense in Egypt, crackdowns on gay Egyptians have been carried out under the pretext of various vague laws such as “violating the teachings of religion” and “moral depravity.”