Saturday, January 19, 2008

Morocco Imprisons 6 For Homosexuality

by Newscenter Staff

An appeals court has upheld the convictions of six men who prosecutors had claimed took part in a gay wedding.

After a video of what authorities claimed was a man in a dress dancing at the wedding appeared on the internet people in the northern town of Ksar el Kebir identified the six for police.

When the video and arrests became public in the Moroccan media Moslem faithful demonstrated in the streets demanding harsh sentences.

Homosexuality in Morocco is punishable with prison terms ranging up to three years.
All six pleaded not guilty at their trial. Western human rights groups who monitored the proceeding said they were convicted on flimsy evidence. It also was not determined if any of the men were gay or transgendered.

The man said to have been the organizer was convicted of homosexuality and serving liquor illegally. He was sentenced to 10 months. The others received six month sentences.

The appeals court examined the evidence and upheld the convictions but reduced the sentences for five of the six.

The alleged organizer's sentence was held but sentences for the five purported partiers were reduced to four months but could be released earlier.

Amnesty International called the convictions a travesty and called for the immediate release of all six. The group also said it was concerned about the personal safety of the men after they are freed.

"The public controversy sparked by this case in Morocco begs for an urgent review of the country's discriminatory laws which criminalize homosexuality. We urge the Moroccan government to drop the charges that contravene Morocco's obligations under international human rights law." said Philip Luther, Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa program at Amnesty International.

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