BAKU, Azerbaijan (AP) — Lawyers and activists say dozens of gay and transgender people in Azerbaijan have been swept up in raids in the capital of Baku this month and some were sentenced to up to 30 days in jail.
Homosexuality was decriminalized in majority-Muslim Azerbaijan in 2000, but animosity toward LGBT people remains strong.
Gulnara Mehtiyeva of the Minority Azerbaijan organization told The Associated Press the arrests that started on Sept. 18 "are the most extensive raids against representatives of sexual minorities in our country."
Interior Ministry spokesman Ehsan Zahidov says the arrests were sparked by citizen complaints of "disrespect to others."
An attorney helping to coordinate legal representation for those arrested, Samed Rahimli, says at least 46 people have been sentenced to between 10 to 30 days in jail for resisting police.
"Of the detained sexual minorities, 16 showed AIDS or syphilis. They are giving sexual services with two or three people a day, spreading the infection," he said.
But the Nefes LGBT Azerbaijan Alliance on Friday posted a statement from one of those detained, saying "I am not a sex worker."
"They were beating me. The police told me I'm doing prostitution work and I must give them information about clients," the man, identified only as Hasan, said on the group's Facebook page.