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Egypt TV host jailed for false debauchery claims

November 26, 2015

An Egyptian television presenter has been sentenced to six months in jail for falsely accusing 26 men of debauchery in an undercover report from a public bathhouse, lawyers and state media said Thursday.

The men were arrested in a night-time raid on the Cairo bathhouse in December after the female presenter, Mona Iraqi, tipped off police, claiming it had become a “den of male sex”.

Iraqi filmed the raid, including footage of the near-naked men. The film was broadcast days later on private Al-Qahira Wel Nas satellite television.

The men, including the bathhouse owner and four employees, were tried for debauchery but cleared for lack of evidence.

The prosecution later pressed charges against Iraqi after some of the men filed a complaint against her.

Iraqi faced two trials — one for defaming the men and one on whether to prevent her from appearing on television.

Defence lawyer Shaaban Said confirmed the sentence, and said Iraqi was also ordered to pay 1,000 Egyptian pounds ($125/120 euros) to remain on bail until the appeal court’s verdict.

“She won’t be jailed because the present verdict has been handed down by a lower court, and we are filing an appeal,” he told AFP.

A lawyer representing the bathhouse owner, who was one of the complainants, said the sentencing was a “positive step”.

“There is a lot of public sympathy for the victims,” said Tarek al-Awdi.

“People know that this was not journalism, and that it was unprofessional,” he said, adding that the trial on whether to prevent her from appearing on television was still ongoing.

Rights groups criticised Iraqi over the programme, which she said was only part of a “series uncovering male sex trafficking and the spread of AIDS in Egypt,” and not targeting homosexuality.

Such activity is not expressly outlawed in Egypt, but gays have previously been charged with debauchery in the deeply conservative Muslim society.

Dispatches from AFP concerning freedom of information, censorship and news coverage in regions where independent media is under threat.