Court Overturns Senegal Jail Terms for Homosexuality
April 21, 2009
The UN and human rights groups hailed Monday's decision by a Dakar court of appeals ordering the release of nine Senegalese nationals convicted of homosexual conduct. The men, who were involved in an AIDS education group, were arrested at a private apartment in December. Convicted on charges of "indecent acts against nature" and membership in a criminal organization, they were sentenced to eight years in prison by a lower court. The sentences were the longest ever handed down for homosexuality in the largely Muslim nation. Although popular locally, the punishments sparked international outrage. "Homophobia and criminalization based on a person's sexual orientation is fueling the AIDS epidemic," said a statement by UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe. "I welcome today's decision by the court of appeals to release these men. We urge Senegal to take steps to remove such laws that block the AIDS response." Under Senegalese law, homosexuality is punishable by up to five years in prison. In the initial trial, the judge added three years because of the defendants' involvement with the AIDS group, which was thought to be a front for recruiting men into homosexuality.
Agence France Presse