‘Ramses bathhouse’ defendants to press charges against journalist behind their arrest

The defense team that won an acquittal for the 26 men tried in the “Ramses bathhouse” case plans to file suit for libel and slander against the journalist who solicited their arrest.

The defendants were arrested in a bathhouse in downtown Cairo’s Ramses area on perversion charges at the behest of television host Mona al-Iraqi, who filmed the ensuing security raid. Iraqi, a presenter on “Al-Mestakhabi,” an investigative journalism show that broadcasts on the privately owned channel Al-Qahera wal Nas, wrote on her Facebook page that she and her team had been investigating the bathhouse to prove it was a “den of illegal gay sex workers.”

Earlier this month, the Azbakeya Misdemeanors Court acquitted the defendants in what activists hailed as a rare victory for the LGBT community.

Defense lawyers from the Center to Support the Rule of Law issued a statement on Friday saying they would file a complaint with the prosecutor general against the channel’s owner and manager, as well as Iraqi and the crew working on the show, “and anyone who took part in the libel and slander of Egyptians and tarnishing their reputation or publishing information that was proven false by a court ruling.”

Defense lawyer Tarek al-Awady had previously told Mada Masr that he was waiting for the channel’s reaction to the acquittal, and unless it issued an apology and referred those working on the program to the prosecution for investigation, he would file a lawsuit.

“We expected Al-Qahera wal Nas to issue an official apology [after the acquittal] and a decision to suspend Mona al-Iraqi to punish her for using a television show to violate professional standards and journalism ethics and human rights,” the statement said.

“We were, however, surprised to see the channel air promos of Wednesday’s episode that show Iraqi adamant in her claims, despite a final ruling that proves the truth that this anchor insists on denying,” the statement continued.

The promo for Wednesday’s broadcast of “Al-Mestakhabi” shows a defiant Iraqi commenting on talk show hosts’ criticisms of her reporting on the bathhouse story.

“Of course there will be sycophants,” she says sarcastically.  

The promo also shows the court ruling, to which Iraqi responds, “Congratulations, but this is not our issue.”

A voiceover says that Iraqi’s original episode that allegedly exposes the bathhouse achieved its purpose by closing the establishment down, and forcing it to register with the Ministry of Endowments.

“Thank God it is now with the Endowments Ministry,” Iraqi says in the clip. “Should something happen there that isn’t proper, we will be the first to talk about it.”

However, in their statement defense lawyers said they were working on reopening the bathhouse, and that the Endowments Ministry has promised to do so mid-next week.

The lawyers’ statement concluded by exhorting the prosecutor general to immediately take the necessary steps to guarantee respect for the court verdict, and confront those who tarnish citizens’ reputation. 

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