An Egyptian court has upheld the deportation of a Libyan man accused of homosexuality in a move that could lay the legal groundwork for other expulsions.
The administrative court rejected an appeal by the man, who was arrested in 2008 and deported after a legal complaint was filed alleging that he was gay.
The man appealed against his entry ban, saying he planned to finish his studies at the Arab Academy for Maritime Transport in Cairo. According to Egyptian media reports, the judge held that the interior ministry had acted lawfully in order to “prevent the spreading of social ills.”.
Egyptian authorities have accelerated arrests of LGBT people and those engaging in perceived “dissident” forms of sexuality and gender since the military overthrew the Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in July 2013.
More than 150 people have been arrested in the clampdown since October 2013, according to Dalia Abd El-Hameed, a gender and women’s rights officer at the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights.
“It might be dangerous given the context. The state is trying all the time to sensationalise the public against LGBT people,” Abd El-Hameed said of the court’s decision.
“This ruling came with both the state and the media in a continuous, vicious campaign against LGBT people,” she said. “The state is using what might be socially unacceptable means to justify violations of people’s human rights and rights to privacy.”
In the most contentious episode in the recent wave of arrests, police arrested 26 men in a Cairo bathhouse in December 2014 while a television crew filmed the raid. The men were later acquitted of the charges of “inciting debauchery”.
In a separate incident in September 2014, seven men were arrested after a video surfaced that appeared to show a gay wedding on board a Nile river boat.
This week’s ruling was predicated on a law that criminalises “debauchery,” and could set a legal precedent. The law does not specifically mention homosexuality, but experts say the wording of the law renders it open to broad interpretation.
“This ruling has more weight than previous criminal cases,” said Mohamed Lotfy, executive director of the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms. “The real problem comes from the law. It speaks very vaguely of debauchery.”
Scott Long, a human rights activist living in Cairo, said: “The court seems to have affirmed a policy which we simply didn’t know about. It’s hard to make out how it’s going to be applied, or against whom.
“Since it took power, this regime has been manipulating both homophobia and xenophobia, and it seems to have found a point where the two meet.”