The Slatest

Egyptian Journalist Faces Libel and Slander Charges Over Role in Gay Bathhouse Raid

Life for gay men in Cairo can be perilous.

Photo by Khaled Desouki/AFP/Getty Images

Mona Iraqi, an Egyptian journalist who drew international attention last year for allegedly instigating a raid on a gay bathhouse in Cairo in order to generate a story about AIDS, will stand trial on libel and slander charges for her role in the vice squad operation, reports Daily News Egypt. The owner of the television station that aired the program has reportedly also been charged.

Twenty-six men were arrested when police entered the bathhouse in December, bringing the establishment’s patrons into the street in various states of undress before booking them on charges ranging from “debauchery” to “organizing same-sex orgies.” The overt role of the media in leading the raid brought renewed debate over ties between the Egyptian government and the press.

From the Guardian’s coverage at the time of the arrests:

The men were dragged half-naked into police trucks in the late night raid, which was filmed by a private television crew headed by presenter Mona Iraqi.

Iraqi and her colleagues later claimed on Facebook and in a YouTube video that they had led the police to the bathhouse on the unsubstantiated suspicion that its customers were a potential source of AIDS.

“Watch the bold Mona Iraqi reveal in a series of investigative episodes the secret behind the spreading of AIDS in Egypt,” stated a trailer for their program, which was presented as a journalistic scoop and a tie-in with World AIDS Day.

The defendants were acquitted of all charges by the Azbekeya Misdemeanor Court, but some have claimed to face intimidation and shame after being revealed as visitors to the bathhouse. One man swept up in the raid reportedly tried to commit suicide by setting himself on fire. He later told an Egyptian newspaper that he had been “harassed constantly in my workplace” and was “suffering neglect and ill-treatment” at the hospital where he was taken after his suicide attempt, according to a report in the Washington Blade.

While homosexuality is not specifically outlawed in Egypt, authorities sometimes use a provision of an anti-prostitution law to arrest men suspected of homosexual acts on charges of “inciting debauchery and immorality.”