Egypt has detained two men, aged 21 and 40, for two months allegedly over suspicions about their sexual orientation, according to Human Rights Watch. The organisation cited the men’s families as saying that prison guards had forcibly shaved their heads and ordered them to undergo drug testing and forced anal examinations.

Seif Bedour (21) and Ahmed al-Ganzoury (40) appear to have been caught up in a 2014 gang rape case involving high-profile accused, though there are no allegations the two sexually assaulted the female victim.

“Police unlawfully searched Bedour’s and al-Ganzoury’s phones and, based on private photos they found, detained them for allegedly engaging in same-sex conduct,” HRW said.

Bedour’s family and friends have started an online campaign seeking his release with the hashtags #Free_Seif and #Seif_Wasnt_There.

The case involves an alleged gang rape that occured at the Fairmont Hotel in 2014, which was filmed and the videos shared by the men who are accused of the crime. Following social media pressure, the authorities started investigating the case and asked witnesses to come forward. While some of the accused fled the country, the police arrested witnesses who had come forward to help the investigations.

Bedour, who had returned to Egypt from Hungary, where he was pursuing his studies, due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, accompanied one of the girls, who was a witness in the case, after she was summoned to the police station.

The police, according to HRW, detained Bedour after finding photos on his phone, allegedly of same sex conduct. Bedour’s family pointed out that he was not in any way involved in the crime, as he was just 14 in 2014 when the alleged incident took place and was not even at the hotel.

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 The police had summoned al-Ganzoury as he was one of the organisers of the party, but detained him after finding photos of same sex conduct on his phone.

“Egyptian authorities are sending a disturbing message that persons who voluntarily go to a police station to assist others may be arrested for their alleged sexual orientation. Prosecutors should immediately drop all charges and investigations concerning the sexual orientation and private life of Bedour and al-Ganzoury and release them,” HRW said.

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Reports have said that the witnesses who had come forward to give evidence in the case, had been subjected to a smear campaign by media affiliated to the government. The witnesses have been reportedly booked for offences relating to debauchery, drug use and working to damage the image of the Egyptian state.

HRW has said that Egypt has been experiencing its “worst human rights crisis” under President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

Though homosexcuality is not illegal in Egypt, according to activists, laws relating to debauchery have been used to arrest and torture LGBTQI people. In June this year, LGBTQI rights activist Sarah Hegazi (30) committed suicide while in exile in Canada. Hegazi had been arrested and tortured for raising the LGBTQI rainbow flag in 2017 in Egypt at a music concert.

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