U.S. leaders decry Egypt's anti-gay abusesFrom The PlanetOut Network
On Thursday U.S. Rep. Steve Rothman, D-N.J., sent a letter urging Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to eliminate all abuses against gay men.
Rothman co-authored the letter with Reps. Barney Frank, D-Mass., and Tom Lantos, D-Calif., and 41 other members of Congress, both Republicans and Democratics, signed it.
"We regard the repression, entrapment and torture of individuals based on their real or perceived sexual orientation to be clear human rights violations," Rothman and his colleagues wrote.
The lawmakers cited a 144-page Human Rights Watch report released on March 1, 2004, which detailed testimonies of men accused of being homosexuals.
The men in the report claimed they were bound, suspended in painful positions, burned with cigarettes, submerged in ice-cold water and subjected to electrical shocks on their limbs and genitals.
Addressing President Mubarak, the letter continued: "We sincerely hope Egypt will abide by the requirements of the treaties signed and laws in place, and that you personally will speak out against and work to prevent any future incidents of torture, including the torture of homosexual men."
Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and other organizations have been documenting torture in Egypt for more than a decade.
One of the most infamous abuses against suspected gay men occurred in May 2001, when Egyptian police arrested more than 50 men on the Queen Boat, a floating nightclub in the Nile. Egypt sentenced 23 men to prison terms because they were found guilty of practicing "sexual immorality," a euphemism for homosexuality. A total of 52 men were on trial and detained for several months; 29 were acquitted.
Rep. Rothman hopes the letter will convince the Egyptian government to change. He is one of five Democrats on the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Foreign Operations, which awards foreign aid.
"Having representatives of the U.S. government send this kind of letter has to have some pull," explained Rothman's press secretary, Jeff Lieberson.
"Whether the Egyptian government is going to do anything is a possibility. It's worth seeing if President Mubarak is going to do anything," Lieberson said.