Morocco: fresh demand for release of six jailed for presumed homosexuality

Jail sentences upheld in YouTube ‘gay’ party video case

Amnesty International has today issued a fresh call for the release of six men in Morocco jailed because of their presumed sexuality.

The six were convicted on 10 December under Article 489 of the Moroccan Penal Code for “lewd or unnatural acts with an individual of the same sex” a video posted on the internet website YouTube was used as part of the prosecution. An appeal ruling today lowered the length of some of the sentences but still upheld the original convictions.

Amnesty International UK Campaigner Kim Manning-Cooper said:

“Rather than just reduce the length of the prison sentences, the Moroccan authorities should have released all of the defendants.

“The use of laws to imprison individuals for same-sex relations is a grave violation of their fundamental human rights.”

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.

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