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Burundi's homosexuality crackdown: 24 people prosecuted

Burundi's homosexuality crackdown: 24 people prosecuted
FILE - Activists from the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBTQ) community ...   -  
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A court in Burundi has charged 24 people with "homosexual practices," a judicial source and a human rights activist in the East African country, which is waging a crackdown on homosexuals, told AFP.

After interrogations which lasted about ten days, 17 men and seven women "were charged with homosexual practices and incitement to homosexual practices by the public prosecutor before being imprisoned in the central prison of Gitega", the capital, announced Wednesday evening to AFP Mr. Armel Niyongere, the president of ACAT-Burundi, which defends human rights.

They will remain in prison until their trial, he added.

A judicial source, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed their indictment.

Police arrested the 24 on February 23 in Gitega, where members of MUCO Burundi, an NGO working to combat AIDS, were holding a seminar.

Neighbors alerted security services after seeing teenage boys and girls at MUCO headquarters. Police found condoms and documents on gay rights on the premises, a judicial source told AFP.

They were accused of promoting homosexuality and homosexual acts, considered crimes punishable by imprisonment.

The penal code promulgated in 2009 by the late President Pierre Nkurunziza, who ruled the country with an iron fist, punishes "sexual relations with a person of the same sex," punishable by three months to two years in prison.

His successor, Évariste Ndayishimiye, blasted "homosexuals, even those living outside the country" in a speech last week.

"I ask all Burundians to curse those who indulge in homosexuality because God cannot bear it. They must be banished, treated as pariahs in our country because they bring us the curse," he said.

In East Africa, as in many countries on the continent, LGBTQ people face precarity and discrimination in conservative societies, whether predominantly Christian or Muslim, where homosexuality is taboo.

Since coming to power in 2020, Mr. Ndayishimiye has oscillated between signs of openness in the regime, which remains under the control of powerful "generals," and firm control of power with human rights abuses denounced by NGOs.

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