Senegal activist: Release 7 men convicted of gay acts

AP News
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Posted: Aug 28, 2015 12:15 PM

DAKAR, Senegal (AP) — A Senegalese activist and a rights group on Friday called for the release of seven men arrested in July and sentenced to six months in prison for homosexual acts.

Djamil Bangoura, president of the gay rights group Prudence, said Senegal must change its anti-gay laws. Homosexual acts are punishable by up to five years in prison and fines of up to $2,500.

"We denounce this policing of people's lives and the attitude that they are criminal," he told The Associated Press in a phone interview. "It's terrible that even today Senegal is condemning and judging people who are maybe different."

Police arrested the seven men without a warrant at a house in a suburb of Dakar after the mother of one of the men called authorities, Bangoura said.

Police said they saw two men in the act, and then found five others in a room with condoms, Bangoura said.

Neither the police officers nor the mother testified at the trial, Bangoura said.

The men were sentenced on Aug. 21 to six months in prison, he said.

Human Rights Watch denounced the case.

"The absurd conviction of these seven men for acts that should never be a crime is sadly not an aberration, but reflects the Senegalese government's broader discrimination against the LGBT community," said Neela Ghoshal of Human Rights Watch.

A lawyer said the police record presented as evidence lacked the basic elements for proving a crime, and phones said to have incriminating details were not presented, Human Rights Watch said.

The organization called for the abolishment of the anti-gay law and for the release of the men.

Same-sex conduct is criminalized in 36 African countries.

In July, Senegal sentenced a journalist to six months in prison for homosexuality. It was Tamsir Jupiter Ndiaye's second conviction in three years.