Lebanon arrests 36 men in gay porn cinema
Thirty six men were arrested yesterday (28 July) in a porn cinema in Beirut, Lebanon, Gay Star News can reveal.
Police raided Plaza Cinema, Beirut, which screens porn films and is famous for being a cruising spot, arresting 36 people including the owner, reported the Lebanese Murr TV (MTV) channel.
MTV’s report was written in a highly inflammatory language designed to stir up anti-gay feelings.
It called the men 'shozoz', a highly derogatory term in Arabic roughly translated to ‘perverts’ in English, and alleged the cinema was a ‘safe haven’ for prostitution and debauchery.
In an attempt to fuel public outrage the report stated that the man behind the Colorado cinema shooting was gay - which is an allegation without any evidence behind it. It said in Lebanon the issue is the transformation of cinemas into a place of immorality prostitution and perversion.
It is unclear if the men, who ‘are mainly gay’, according to MTV, are still being detained or have been released.
In addition the cinema was shut down by the police.
Lebanese activists are still unclear on what grounds the men were arrested, but they suspect that ‘public indecency’ and Article 534 of the Lebanese penal code were used to arrest them.
Article 534 prohibits having sexual relations ‘contradicting the laws of nature’, which is punishable by up to a year in prison.
In 2009 Judge Mounir Suleiman from the Batroun court district ruled that consensual homosexual relations are not against nature and thus cannot be prosecuted under article 534, but it may be that in this case the article had nevertheless been used.
Helem, the LGBT advocacy charity in Lebanon, is now seeking legal advice and is planning for direct action.
The arrest comes after a concerted anti-gay campaign championed by reporter and celebrity presenter Joe Maalouf, in his program ‘Enta Horr’ (‘You are free’) that is screened by MTV.
On 8 May MTV screened the program featuring an undercover camera filming men having sex in a porn cinema in the city of Tripoli, whilst exposing their identity to the public.
Maalouf called upon the police and authorities to act against the shozoz (perverts), debauchery and prostitution which they practice in ‘such places.’
He also mentioned that there are several other cinemas that practice this ‘debauchery’.
Helem condemned the program saying that it violated the right of privacy and basic human rights, let alone being unprofessional and unethical by the use of inflammatory and negative language. It called upon Maalouf, and the station to apologise and retract the broadcast.
Maalouf, however, did not relent his homophobic campaign and mentioned on several occasions other cinemas allow ‘debauchery’, perversion and prostitution.
A few weeks ago he also alleged that the authorities are protecting the perverts and the cinemas and called for law enforcement action against these cinemas. This instigated the raid on Saturday.
Maalouf is widely believed in the Lebanese LGBT community to be a closeted gay man, although Gay Star News can not verify if he is truly gay. However his actions have now lead to him being outed.
Commenting on the news, Georges Azzi, the founder of Helem and executive director for the Arab Foundation For Freedoms And Equality stated on his Facebook page: ‘After the call made by Joe Maalouf in his program "inta horr”, yesterday the police raided plaza cinema in Burj Hammoud, a gay cruising cinema.
‘I do not know what is more sad, the fact that Joe Maalouf is gay (and well known by the gay community) and he is working for a conservative TV station playing the morality police, or the fact that a closeted gay kid with a stupid program can mobilize the police like no other movement could.’
Watch Maalouf's rant on 8 May program 'Enta Horr' (from 00:40) in Arabic: