Citing sources within Iran the New York-based Human Rights Watch said that the men were arrested in late February and have been held for almost four weeks without access to lawyers and without formal charges.
The men allegedly are accused of consensual homosexual conduct, drinking alcohol, and other related "morals" offenses.
Police reportedly referred them to a forensic medical examiner to look for “evidence” that they have engaged in homosexual conduct.
Human Rights Watch urged Iranian authorities to release the men.
"When police routinely break down doors to enforce a brand of morality, it means a line has been crossed to invade people’s privacy at any time," said Joe Stork, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.
"Iran’s repressive system of controlling people’s dress, behavior, and personal lives violates fundamental rights."
In May 2007, during a nationwide crackdown to enforce dress codes and conduct, police raided another private party in an apartment building in Esfahan. They arrested 87 persons, including four women and at least eight people whom they accused of wearing the clothing of the opposite sex. Victims told Human Rights Watch that police stripped many of them to the waist in the street, and beat them until their backs or faces were bloody. Several reportedly had bones broken.
Of those arrested, 24 men were tried for “facilitating immorality and sexual misconduct,” as well as possessing and drinking alcohol. In June 2007, an Esfahan court found all of them guilty of various combinations of these charges. Most were sentenced to up to 80 lashes and to fines up to $5,000 (US). The verdicts are under appeal and have not yet been enforced.
Citing its unnamed sources in Iran, Human Rights Watch said that since the May 2007 arrests, police have intensified surveillance, harassment, and abuse against people connected to the 87 arrested men, or otherwise suspected of homosexual conduct. Several described being detained by police and interrogated to reveal contacts.
According to one man’s account, provided by Human Rights Watch, police “poured water over me. … They threatened me, they said ‘cooperate with us.’ … They are after everyone, they said, ‘You are completing your gang, you are creating new members, where do you gather?’” They told me, ‘Go out and meet people.’ In essence, I should spy for them."
Iranian law provides punishments up to death for penetrative same-sex sexual activity between men on the first conviction, and punishes non-penetrative activity with up to 100 lashes.
Homosexual conduct between women is punishable with death on the fourth conviction. Iran’s Penal Code requires four reiterated confessions, or the testimony of four “righteous men” as eyewitnesses, to prove lavat, or sodomy. However, judges are permitted to accept circumstantial evidence or inference. At the May 2007 raid in Esfahan, police reportedly brought four civilian witnesses to prove that “immorality” was taking place.