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Police raid Lebanon bathhouse, arrest 27 men on gay sex claims

The ‘Turkish baths’ in Beirut saw a police raid after a tip-off they were a meeting place for gay sex. Men remain in custody awaiting charges
Roman Park Baths in Beirut: While not where the raid took place, bathing has a long tradition in Lebanon.

Police in Lebanon have raided a hammam – or ‘Turkish bathhouse’ – and arrested 27 men after a report it was a meeting place for gay sex.

The raid took place on 9 August and was carried out by the Internal Security Forces, or national police, of the Mediterranean country.

It took place at the privately-owned Agha Hammam baths in the Hamra-Concord area in Beirut.

According to Colonel Tony Haddad from the Hbeish police station, the raid followed the arrest of an individual who pointed to the Agha Hammam as a gathering place for men who are seeking sexual encounters with other men.

Details of the arrest and what has happened to the men have only just emerged after work to uncover the facts by a group of LGBTI and gay-friendly organizations in Lebanon.

Colonel Haddad has apparently assured them none of the detainees were subjected to any physical or verbal violence or abuse.

He also said the police did not use the discredited anal probe test to examine whether they had gay sex. This test is considered a form of torture but was once common in Lebanon although it is now, technically, banned.

However activists told Gay Star News this evening they were still concerned about the threat or possibility of anal probe tests.

But Haddad did reportedly tell the activists that some of the detainees confirmed to investigators that they are gay.

The leading LGBTI and gay-supportive groups, Helem, Arab Foundation for Freedom and Equality (AFE), M-Coalition, Marsa Sexual Health Clinic, and the Lebanese Medical Association for Sexual Health (LebMASH) gave this statement to GSN within the last few minutes.

‘The incident came to our attention on Monday night (11 August) and we initiated an investigation of the reasons behind the raid and the status of the detained.

‘We were able to confirm the arrest of 27 men who were present at the venue.

‘Among the arrested men were the owner of the Hammam, the employees and several clients. All the men were still held in custody at Hbeish police station at the time this press release was written; four days following their arrest.

‘According to the information that Col Haddad provided us with (and which we cannot confirm beyond his words), Hbeish personnel investigated the detainees and their files have been transferred to the General Prosecutor awaiting charges.’

Based on this, the campaigners contacted Lebanon’s General Prosecutor Bilal Dinnawi to ask if he will press charges.

He apparently told them he is not interested in charging the detainees under article 534, the cover-all law which criminalizes homosexuality in Lebanon.

However he reportedly said he may charge them with public indecency, under article 521 of the penal code.

The non-governmental organizations working on the case expect any charges to be confirmed tomorrow morning.

The statement from the campaigners continues:

‘We made contact with the detainees who expressed their discomfort and confusion regarding the process of the investigation and the charges.

‘It has also come to our attention that at the time of the raid no public sexual act was taking place at Agha Hammam, and the investigation at the police station revolved mainly around the detainees’ alleged (homo)sexuality.

‘We denounce this incident as a case of homophobic practice that aims to police the sexual rights and liberties of the individuals involved and we call on the General Prosecutor and Hbeish police station to respect the dignity of the detainees and their rights to their (sexual) bodies.

‘We also specifically denounce the use or the implication of use of anal tests and we want to stress the physical and mental harm that such treatment could cause.

‘We call for the immediate release of all the detainees from under charges which violate their sexual and bodily rights and integrity. We will follow up on the cases as needed.’

While homosexuality remains criminalized in Lebanon a small gay scene operates with relative openness.

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