In April, a YouTube user posted a video that appeared to show something remarkable: Two Egyptian men on a boat in the Nile exchanging rings. If the video showed what it appeared to show, it would seem to be Egypt's first "gay marriage."
The video sat on YouTube, apparently unnoticed for months, until it suddenly gained attention in late August. The popularity of the clip soon became a problem. While the original video appears to have been removed, numerous copies can be found on YouTube, and it was shown on a number of Egyptian television shows.
A man who said he was one of the people in the video called Tamer Amin, a popular talk show host who has made negative comments about homosexuals in the past, and attempted to explain it. The unnamed man said that the video actually showed a birthday party and the "wedding" was a joke about rings. He had a girlfriend, the man explained, and his life had been in turmoil since the video went viral.
While homosexuality is not technically illegal in Egypt, gay men can find themselves charged with "debauchery" and other crimes. Egypt's largely Islamic culture has a traditional and conservative attitude to homosexuality – one 2013 poll from Pew found 95 percent of Egyptians did not think their society should accept it.
Over the weekend, Egyptian state media announced that nine of the men involved in the video had been arrested on suspicion of "incitement to debauchery" and "publishing indecent images." The public prosecutor's office released a statement that said the images were "humiliating, regrettable and would anger God," according to Reuters.
On Monday, authorities announced that the seven of the arrested men had been "inspected" and found to not be homosexual. "According to inspection, the seven suspects have never had sex with other men," Hisham Abdel-Hamid, a spokesman for the forensic authority, told Egyptian press.
Egypt has conducted homosexuality tests for years, and they have been frequently criticized. In 2004, Health and Human Rights journal published a report that said the procedures, based on anal examinations, were a form of "a form of torture" and based on "a 19th century medical mythology."
Even after these inspections, however, the case is not over. According to Ahram Online, one of the grooms in the alleged wedding video did not turn up for his inspection, and prosecutors have announced two more arrest warrants for men in the video.