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Three Years In Prison For Egyptian Men In Purported Gay Marriage Video

A court in Cairo sentenced eight men to three years in prison today, over charges of "debauchery" stemming from an online video that showed the men celebrating what appeared to be a same-sex wedding in August.

The case stems from a short video of a party on a boat that fueled a lively discussion in social media and led the Egyptian site Cairo Scene to ask, "Is This Egypt's First Gay Marriage?" after it was posted on YouTube. The event included the presentation of a ring and a cake featuring two men.

The defendants had denied the charges, with one of the men stating in an interview that he only gave a friend a ring as a birthday present. The case has put new focus on gay rights in Egypt.

From Ahram Online:

"Consensual same-sex relations are not explicitly prohibited in Egypt, but other laws have been used to imprison gay men in recent years, including charges [of] 'debauchery' or 'shameless public acts.'

"Egypt's forensics authority announced earlier this month that the defendants had undergone physical inspections and were found to be 'not gay.' "

Citing its Middle East editor Sebastian Usher, the BBC reports, "Islamists had led the chorus of outrage against the video, saying that it proved moral standards had dropped since Islamist President Mohammed Morsi was removed from power last year."

Saturday's ruling is subject to appeal.

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Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.