Egyptian security flank 52 suspected homosexual men accused of sexual immorality as they arrive at a Cairo court November 14, 2001
Egyptian security flank 52 suspected homosexual men accused of sexual immorality as they arrive at a Cairo court November 14, 2001 (Reuters)

Egyptian police have raided a health centre in Cairo's El-Marg district and arrested managers, specialists, workers and 14 clients for "practising homosexuality".

The raid came after the prosecutor ordered the detention of the men, because the centre "was open for perverts only", according to Akhbar el-Youm state newspaper.

Police reportedly found the men "in positions that are against religious precepts". They also found a quantity of pills and sexual stimulants. According to the report, between £50 and £300 was paid for one sexual encounter.

The prosecutor closed the centre and ordered the men to be referred to the "forensic medical authority".

However American activist Scott Long, also founding director of the Human Rights Watch LGBT rights programme, reported on his paper bird blog that the centre was just a small gym and sauna converted from a private apartment.

"The entry fee was 25 pounds back then. It's unlikely the price has gone up eightfold in the interim, so the figures the police gave (with the strong suggestion of prostitution) are probably nonsense," he wrote on a dedicated post, citing local contacts. The activist also suggested that the sexual stimulant pills were nothing but vitamins or even steroids

Long stressed the fact that the workers at the gym and the clients were sent to forensic anal examinations, "which are intrusive, abusive and inhuman treatment".

"They don't yet have lawyers," he wrote. "Human rights organisations are overburdened with the arrested, the tortured, the disappeared since the military takeover. Some informal networks are trying to see what we can do."

Between 2001 and 2004, Hosni Mubarak's regime launched a crackdown on homosexual conduct, arresting and torturing thousands of people. In 2001, 52 men were trialled for the "habitual practice of debauchery".

Under the Muslim Brotherhood's rule, after the 2011 Revolution, many LGBT activists and citizens were worried that the Islamist government would launch a crackdown on homosexuality, following the introduction of the new constitution. However, nothing really changed - for better or worse - for LGBT people under Mohammed Morsi's rule, according to Long.

"Back in June, when three days of massive demonstrations gave the military the go-ahead to overthrow President Morsi, most of my gay friends in Cairo flocked to the streets, first in protest, then in celebration. But nothing had gotten worse for LGBT people under Muslim Brotherhood rule; nothing has got better since it ended. Same old, same old," he said.