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Egypt: Global appeal against Internet entrapment of gay men

Wassim Tawfiq Abyad was convicted of "habitual debauchery" and sentenced to 15 months imprisonment after using the website to set up a meeting with a man, believed to have been a police informant. Electronic conversations exchanged between the two men on gaydar were used as evidence against Wissam in court.

Amnesty International is very concerned that the Egyptian authorities are persuing a policy of internet entrapment to persecute gay men. The human rights organisation has sent details of Wissam's case to its global membership of more than 1.6 million, and is asking people all over the world to write to the Egyptian authorities on Wissam's behalf (see below).

Nora Cranston, Amnesty International campaigner for LGBTI equality, said: "It's shocking that a man has been locked up in Egypt for exactly the same kind of private communication taken for granted by 1,000s of men in the UK. The Egyptian government must receive a clear message from people all over the world that persecution of people for their sexual orientation is unacceptable, and that internet entrapment is a clear violation of fundamental human rights."

There have been several cases of men being arrested and charged after arranging to meet people they first contacted on the internet. These include Amnesty International prisoner of conscience Zaki Sayid Zaki'Abd al-Malak, who was sentenced to three years imprisonment and has reportedly been ill-treated in detention.

Although Egypt has repeatedly declared to the UN that "homosexuality is not a criminal offence in itself," Amnesty International is concerned that the Egyptian authorities are pursuing a proactive policy of arresting and imprisoning men on the basis of their actual or perceived sexual orientation. More than 50 men were prosecuted for "habitual debauchery" and imprisoned for up to five years after being arrested at the 'Queen Boat' night-club in May 2001.

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