A Nigerian activist says that the 42 men arrested for homosexuality had simply gathered to access HIV counselling and testing.
AFP reported that the group, which apparently includes 12 minors, was on Thursday accused in court of engaging in “gay activities”.
The “suspects”, who were arrested during a raid on a hotel in the state of Lagos on Saturday, were charged with “permitting male persons to have carnal knowledge of themselves against the order of nature”.
It’s been alleged that around 70 men were actually involved in the raid, but that many were let go after paying bribes to the police.
The remaining accused have now been granted bail, but the magistrate reportedly agreed to a request by the prosecution that they be monitored and undergo “sexual rehabilitation”.
Nigerian LGBT activist Bisi Alimi, who is based in the UK, has slammed the charges and basis for the raid as a sham.
“The reports are not true. There was a group of gay men who were organising a sexual health awareness party around HIV. They were trying to raise awareness about HIV testing,” he told IBTimes UK.
“I am practically disgusted that the Nigerian police arrested a group of young men who were trying to save themselves from the HIV epidemic and considered them as criminal,” he said.
Alimi has launched an online petition calling on the Nigerian Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, to “release these innocent men immediately and that no charges are brought against them”.
He insisted that the men “were working together as a community to organise an HIV awareness and prevention event, held in a public space in a Lagos hotel.”
Alimi has since suspended the petition. He explained: “Our partners in Nigeria are assessing new information on this case, so we are pausing this campaign as they continue their efforts on the ground.”
Nigeria has some of the most repressive anti-LGBT legislation in the world. A 2014 federal law prohibits same-sex marriages and relationships with a penalty of up to 14 years in prison and stipulates 10 years in jail for public displays of same-sex affection as well as 10 years for membership or support of LGBT groups.
Under older colonial-era legislation, anyone found guilty of engaging in homosexual acts can also be jailed for 14 years.
The post Nigeria mass arrest | It was HIV testing, not a gay orgy appeared first on MambaOnline - Gay South Africa online.