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Morocco: Amnesty demands release of six facing jail for presumed homosexuality

Youtube ‘gay’ party video shown at original trial

Amnesty International today called on its 2.2 million members worldwide to write to the Moroccan authorities demanding the release of six men who are facing jail because of their presumed homosexuality.

The six were convicted on 10 December under Article 489 of the Moroccan Penal Code for “lewd of unnatural acts with an individual of the same sex” – a video posted on the internet website Youtube was used as part of the prosecution. Their appeal hearing begins on Tuesday 8 January.

Fouad Friret and five other men were arrested following public denunciations that a private party held by the men on 18 and 19 November in Ksar El Kebir, a small city in northern Morocco, was simulating a gay marriage.

A video of the party was circulated on Youtube and prompted some local newspapers and Islamist parties to denounce “perverse acts” and to call for the participants in the party to be punished.

Hundreds of angry local inhabitants took to the streets and on one occasion marched to the house where the private party had been held, which led Fouad Friret, the house owner, to take refuge at the local police station.

At the trial, all six men maintained their innocence of the charges. All denied that they had engaged in same-sex sexual relations during the party. The Youtube video was broadcast at the trial but did not present any evidence of “lewd or unnatural acts with an individual of the same sex”.

Despite the lack of evidence, the men were found guilty and sentenced to prison terms and fines. Three men were sentenced to six months’ imprisonment and two others to four months’ imprisonment. Fouad Friret was sentenced to 10 months’ imprisonment on account of homosexual conduct and for allegedly selling alcohol illegally.

Tim Hancock, Campaigns Director of Amnesty International UK, said:

“The fact that the six men were convicted purely on rumour shows how prevalent homophobia is in Morocco.

“Amnesty International considers the use of laws to imprison individuals for same-sex relations as a grave violation of their fundamental human rights.

“Amnesty has called for their sentences to be overturned and is calling on its members across the world to email or fax the Moroccan embassy demanding their immediate release.”

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