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‘First gay wedding’ video sends 8 Egyptians to jail for 3 years

‘First gay wedding’ video sends 8 Egyptians to jail for 3 years
A Cairo court has sentenced eight men to three years in prison after they appeared in a video, described online as Egypt’s first “gay wedding,” that went viral in September. The video shows two men hugging and exchanging rings on a boat with friends.

One of the charged men denied the video depicted a wedding. He told privately owned Rotana Masriya TV that the party was in fact a birthday celebration and that he was giving his friend a ring as a gift. However, the prosecutors concluded this was a marriage ceremony.

Following the arrest, reports emerged that seven of the men were subjected to anal inspections during the trial and medical professionals found them “not gay.” The eighth refused to undergo the invasive procedure.

On Saturday, Qasr Al-Nil Misdemeanour Court sentenced the eight men to three years in prison followed by a three-year probation period on charges of debauchery, Ahram Online reports.

Homosexuality, technically legal in Egypt, is considered socially taboo. Websites associated with the Muslim Brotherhood, the former ruling Islamist movement now banned in Egypt, shared the “marriage” video as evidence of Egypt’s moral decay under military coup-installed leader President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who ousted the Muslim Brotherhood just last year.

READ MORE: Egypt’s ‘full military coup:’ How it happened

Sisi’s government has been persecuting homosexuals as part of a renewed effort to enforce morality laws, and distance the new regime from accusations of secularism. Human rights advocates allege that laws forbidding “debauchery” or “shameless public acts” have been used to target over 77 gay men since October 2013.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has condemned Saturday’s convictions as part of a wider campaign of surging intolerance in Egypt.

The past year has seen a rise in raid on private properties targeting gays. In April, four men were arrested in their east Cairo home during an apartment raid, hours after signing a lease. The men were sentenced to up to eight years in prison, an unusually long sentence.

"Egypt's government, evidently not satisfied jailing opposition members, students, and human rights activists, has found the time to prosecute [gay men]," a HRW statement said. HRW called the sentencing "the latest signal that the new government will prosecute anyone to try to bolster its support."