After the July 18 court session, a beleaguered mother screamed: "He went out to buy me medicine when [the police] arrested him." This would explain the almost identical news reports published in the two weeks that followed the raid.The reports, probably issued by state security sources, described rituals of a Satan-worshipping cult and public orgies allegedly taking place on the Queen Boat every Thursday night.By the time the public prosecutor issued a statement denying these reports, the goal had been achieved: the public was attentive.
Fathers and mothers who came to see their sons could not, since the handcuffed defendants were covering their heads with scraps of newspaper, plastic bags and towels to avoid the flashing cameras.
Publishing details concerning an ongoing investigation or trial that might influence the course of the proceedings is prohibited by both the Press Law 96/1996 and the Code of Ethics issued by the Egyptian Journalists' Syndicate.
Two other sensational cases have also crowded out economic issues.
Days after the Queen Boat raid, a businessman was referred to the criminal court for having been married to 17 women.
One motive is certainly to divert public attention from economic recession and the government's liquidity crisis.
According to official statistics, at least 23 million of Egypt's 65 million people live under the poverty line.The 52 men, along with three others who were released without being officially charged, were arrested May 11 on the Queen Boat, a tourist boat moored on the Nile in Cairo.The boat has long been a known gathering place for the Egyptian gay community. Although the Egyptian regime has been utterly unpredictable lately—most notably with the strangely harsh sentence for human rights advocate and dual Egyptian-US citizen Saad Eddin Ibrahim—observers agree that something must have impelled state security forces to raid a tourist discotheque at a time when Egypt's economy, which depends heavily on tourism revenue, is still struggling to overcome the fallout from the 1997 Luxor massacre.Last week, a 22 year-old gay Egyptian Moroccan medical intern who blogs anonymously under the name Ice Queer gave an interview to the excellent website Gay Middle East.This week, Michelangelo Signorile interviewed him using a vocal scrambler to help protect his identity.The trial of 52 suspected gay men on charges of immorality, which opened in Cairo on July 18, signaled an end to long years of discreet and quietly tolerated public activity by the Egyptian gay community.