THE 26 men accused of “debauchery” after they were arrested in a raid on a Cairo bathhouse have been acquitted by an Egyptian court overnight.

The raid was part of an investigative piece exposing “debauchery” on TV show El Mestakhabi (The Hidden) on private, pro-Egyptian regime channel El Kahera Wal Nas.

After receiving a tip from reporter Mona Iraqi, Cairo Security Directorate’s “morality” police raided the bathhouse at 10pm on Sunday, December 7.

Iraqi posted images (pictured above) of the raid on Facebook and wrote, in Arabic: “With pictures, we reveal the biggest den of perversions in the heart of Cairo.”

Iraqi’s televised report a few days later showed video of police dragging the half-naked men out of the bathhouse and being loaded into police vans.

The event, regarded as the latest in the increased police crackdown on homosexuality in Egypt, grabbed headlines around the world.

Ten pro-LGBTI rights organisations across the Arab world, including Lebanon-based LGBTI advocacy group Helem, also released a joint statement condemning the TV broadcast of the mass arrests, and accused Iraqi and her crew of colluding with the police force and for violating the rights and privacy of those arrested.

However, last night an Egyptian court ruled that all of the accused men were innocent.

The defendants, who were brought handcuffed to the courtroom and made to stand in a metal cage guarded by armed policemen, chanted “Allahu akbar (God is greatest)” when the verdict was announced.

Jubilant families of the defendants also cheered at the verdict — and for the police.

“The ruling proved our innocence and cleared the name of the hammam. I swear we did nothing wrong,” said Fathy Abdel Rahman, owner of the bathhouse.

“Finally, an Egyptian court issued a verdict in a case of this kind according to the law,” Ahmed Hossam, a lawyer defending 14 of the accused, said.

While homosexuality is not explicitly outlawed in Egypt, gay people are regularly accused of breaking public decency laws, debauchery or scorning religion.

In November, eight men were jailed for “inciting debauchery” after a video of a supposed gay wedding that they were a part of was posted online.

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