An Egyptian court has sentenced eight men to three years in jail on charges of spreading indecent images through a video purporting to show the country’s first gay marriage ceremony.
The video, filmed aboard a Nile riverboat, shows what prosecutors said was a gay wedding, with two men in the centre kissing, exchanging rings and cutting a cake with their picture on it.
The court also sentenced the eight men to three years of probation once they have served their terms.
One of the defendants, prior to their detention, told a television talk show that the video was recorded during a birthday party.
The arrests were the latest in a string of highly publicised police raids on suspected gay people in the country, prompting a US-based social networking application used by gays to urge caution to users in Egypt.
Homosexuality is not specifically banned under Egyptian law, so the men, arrested in September, were convicted of broadcasting images that “violated public decency.”
A statement from the office of Egypt’s chief prosecutor in September said the video clip was “shameful to God” and “offensive to public morals”.
The sentence was met with uproar from the families of the defendants, who demonstrated outside the court in central Cairo and were cleared away from the area by police.
The defendants, who had denied the charges, stood silent in the court room cage as the verdict was read, one of them holding up a copy of the Quran.
One defence lawyer, Emad Sobhi, insisted that the court had caved in to popular pressure in the country.
“My clients are innocent of practicing homosexuality,” he told the AFP news agency. “The court succumbed to public opinion.”
In the past, homosexuals have been jailed on charges ranging from “scorning religion” to “sexual practices contrary to Islam,” the country’s dominant religion.
In April, a court sentenced four men to up to eight years in prison for practicing homosexuality.
Prosecutors had accused them of holding “deviant parties” and dressing in women’s clothes. Three were sentenced to eight years and the fourth to three years in prison.